· In recent years, we have been witnessing a significant spike in criminal acts identified as hate crimes. This trend finds its reflection in statistics published by the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, the Police and Prosecutor’s Office.
· Poland has noted a significant increase in the number of religious offences as well as violence or insults motivated by a victim’s religious background.
· Statistics published by the OSCE point to a significant rise in hate crime incidents targeted at Christians across Europe.
· The above problem is the focus of an Ordo Iuris Report. The publication also offers insight into hate crime from the perspective of the Polish Constitution, criminal law, civil law and international law.
· The conclusions of the Report were presented during a press conference organised by Ordo Iuris and the Polish Catholic News Agency (KAI).
The conviction rate for hate crimes involving violence or insults inspired by religious intolerance or dissemination of totalitarianism has been rising in Poland. In 2015, 162 people were convicted of crimes under Articles 119, 256 and 257 of the Criminal Code, while in 2018, there were 269 convictions. Moreover, in the years 2017–2020, the number of incidents in which religious sensibilities were offended nearly doubled. 70 such cases were reported in 2017, and 130 in 2020.
“The available statistical data and estimates point to a continuous upward trend in these hate crimes. Police statistics related to religious offences provide some insights into the situation. Over the last few years, we have been observing a significant rise in criminal acts penalised under Article 196 of the Criminal Code. The year 2020, in which the Constitutional Tribunal delivered its judgement on the issue of eugenic abortion, marked the peak of this type of crimes”, said Przemysław Pietrzak, one of the report authors, during the conference.
OSCE statistics demonstrate a dramatic increase in the number of hate crimes committed against Christians in Europe, Poland included. In its 2019 report, the Organisation noted 35 of this type of criminal incidents, while a year later, the corresponding number was already 242. However, the studies conducted by the OSCE and Commissioner for Human Rights reveal that only 5% of hate-motivated offences are reported to law enforcement authorities. As a consequence, the actual number of offences may be much higher.
“Punishment of religious offences and hate acts inspired by religious intolerance has become a European standard. In other European countries, the justice system handles these incidents much faster, imposing enhanced penalties. Moreover, the law in some countries applies a much stricter approach to this problem”, noted Marcin Przeciszewski, President of the Polish Catholic Information Agency.
There is no uniform or commonly accepted definition of hate crimes in international law. They are usually defined as criminal acts committed against an individual (or their associated property), due to “hatred” of their characteristics. The catalogue of such characteristics may, however, vary, depending on a wide range of social factors.
The Polish Constitution offers a range of guarantees to protect religious freedom, prohibit dissemination of the totalitarian narrative and combat hate acts committed on the grounds of a person’s racial demographic or ethnicity. The current legislation protects interests of individuals, regardless of their broadly defined sexual orientation. Therefore, the postulates to extend the list of features of criminal offences are not justified since the requirement to ensure the implementation of related constitutional guarantees is already met by the relevant articles of the Criminal Code.
The current public discourse often employs the concept of “hate speech”. The latter is, however, often used to “discipline” persons expressing certain views and beliefs by restricting their freedom of speech. The Ordo Iuris Report demonstrates that the efforts taken to implement the concept of hate speech understood in this particular way to the criminal law are unjustified.
“The concept of hate speech is rooted in our inclination to oppose hatred, but at the same time, it has not been clearly defined and is used as a buzzword, a convenient means to limit freedom of speech and discussion. It is used as the reason for closing Facebook accounts or removing users from YouTube. It has also been used, for example, to ban a campaign of a pro-life organisation in France”, commented Jerzy Kwaśniewski President of Ordo Iuris.
· Amendments to the Public Order Bill are under way in the British Parliament.
· It concerns so-called "safe access" zones around abortion clinics in the UK.
· Similar legislation is currently in effect in Northern Ireland, where areas are created within 150 meters of these facilities, where it is forbidden not only to protest against abortion, but even to pray quietly and talk about alternatives to abortion.
The World Health Organization is continuing work on the so-called "anti-pandemic treaty. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body - INB, appointed for this purpose, has published another draft of the document, to take the form of a convention, agreement or other WHO international instrument in the future, with the aim of pandemic prevention and preparedness. Although the draft is still only a prototype for a future agreement and many gaps have been left, already in this form it proposes solutions worth noting.
· The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a tribunal for crimes of aggression against Ukraine.
· The new tribunal would deal exclusively with the crime of aggression against Ukraine and would complement the International Criminal Court.
· The ICC has jurisdiction to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Ukraine, but cannot rule on the crime of Russia's aggression against Ukraine itself.
The WHO's Intergovernmental Negotiating Body is continuing work on a draft of the so-called "anti-pandemic treaty. The next draft replicates the document's previously stated goals, such as establishing a central role for WHO in coordinating health policy and coordinating scientific information. During discussions, the need to take into account so-called reproductive rights was emphasized.