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Report: How Hate Kills. Hate Crimes in Poland in 2019

1. Crimes on the basis of race and national origin

The last five years have been a period of rapid changes on the political scene in Poland – in 2015, presidential and parliamentary elections were held, and the election campaigns often referred to the dangers of immigration, aroused fears of refugees or Islamists, and appealed to anti-Semitic and anti-Ukrainian sentiments. At the same time, Europe faced the challenge of receiving and integrating large groups of immigrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East. Although this process was not visible in Poland, it became a subject of lively public debate, accompanied by real government action in this field.

In April 2016, Prime Minister Beata Szydło disbanded the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, and in November 2016, the then Minister of the Interior and Administration Mariusz Błaszczak dissolved the Human Rights Protection Team, – a key governmental unit for combating human rights crimes, such as racism.

Despite the fact that the Law and Justice party has strongly opposed the admission of refugees and immigrants, a record number of residence permits for non-EU citizens were issued under the party’s rule in Poland. According to the Eurostat report, in 2017, Poland issued 683,000 first residence permits for citizens of non-EU countries. The number of residence permits issued in our country in connection with work accounts for 59% of all such permits issued in 2017 in the EU. In turn, the data published by the government online portal Migracje.gov shows that the number of migrants coming to Poland is growing year by year. First of all, they are economic migrants, mainly from Ukraine, while Belarusians rank second on the list. The statistics also show Syrian, Iraqi and Bangladeshi citizens.

During the recent election campaign to the European Parliament in 2019, it transpired that the refugee issue is no longer such significant electoral fuel as it used to be in 2015 (being replaced by “fear” of the spread of “LGBT ideology” in Poland). However, the radical language of public debate has remained unchanged, which significantly affects the way immigrants are perceived in Poland. According to the Ombudsman, the radicalisation of media messages has contributed to an increase in national, ethnic and religious crime.

Selected cases:

1.1       Racist hateful comments towards a black student – January 2019, Poznań

The epoznan.pl online portal reported the student government’s support to the teachers’ strike taking place in High School No. 1 in Poznań (the so-called “Marcinek”). In the photo accompanying the story, a black man named Niamba was among the members of the student government. A Polish citizen with Senegalese and Rwandan roots, the high school graduate has become an object of massive hate on the Internet. “And the one on the left, where did he lose his owner?”, “A black man also supports the teachers? I don’t think he knows what’s going on,” “A black man in Marcinek? The world is coming to an end”, “He got points for the colour of his skin” – these are just some of the offensive, racist comments that appeared on the epoznan.pl online forum.

Current status of the case: From among the authors of all the comments submitted, it was possible to identify only three men who pleaded guilty before the court. Two men expressed their repentance, so the court conditionally discontinued the proceedings against them and obliged them to pay compensation. The third man who did not express his repentance was sentenced to a fine of PLN 2,000. Moreover, they were all obliged to apologise on the online portal where they posted their racist comments. The sentence is not final. Niamba’s parents are not satisfied with the verdict and have announced an appeal against it. The remaining authors of hateful comments could not be identified and, in this part, the proceedings were discontinued.

1.2       Racist attack on two Indian men – 4 February 2019, Gdansk

In the evening, three men boarded bus No. 168. Seeing two men of Indian origin sitting in the back of the vehicle, they began to shout racist slogans. “N*ggers are sitting and the whites have to stand,” one of the men shouted.The aggressors insulted the Indian passengers and called them names for several minutes. The men of Indian background did not react to the invective. When the attackers were getting off at their stop, they hit one of the Indian men in the back. The Indian citizens reported this at the police station shortly after the incident. By making the surveillance photos public, the police managed to identify the men. The aggressors faced charges of public racist insults.

Status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.3       Brutal battery of a Ukrainian driver – 9 March 2019, Warsaw

A Ukrainian driver working for Uber was supposed to take three men and three women to a popular Warsaw club with disco polo music. The drunken men did not like the music in the car, so they demanded that the driver turn on disco polo. When the driver refused, explaining that the radio was broken and was playing music from his phone, they started to call him names and threaten him. The Ukrainian man stopped the car and asked the passengers to leave and order another taxi. The recording available on the Internet shows the men who, after getting out of the car, initially insult the driver through the driver’s window (“F*ck, we don’t live in Ukraine, where everyone fights for a piece of bread, we live in Poland”) and attack him, punching him in the face. Then the attackers pull the driver out of the car and begin to beat him even more. “When they were beating me, all I heard was ‘You, Ukrainian piece of sh*t’ and ‘F*cking Ukrainian’” – the driver recalls. The case was reported to the police.

Current status of the case: The prosecutor’s office is still investigating the case. According to the investigators, the attack had no xenophobic overtones.

1.4     Attack on two Ukrainians citizens, beating one of them – 18-26 March 2019, Wroclaw

A man attacked two Ukrainian citizens on a tram. When he heard them talking in their mother tongue, he started to behave aggressively towards them. In order to avoid confrontation, the men of Ukrainian origin got off at the nearest stop, but the attacker followed them and beat one of them. The police and an ambulance were called to the scene. The assailant was placed under arrest on suspicion of violence on the basis of national origin.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.5       Attacks on Uber taxi drivers – 3 April 2019, Warsaw*

A group of masked men in the centre of Warsaw attacked Uber taxi drivers from other countries. The incidents were filmed by the Warsaw taxi drivers and posted on the Facebook account of Taryfa24. On one of the recordings, one can see how aggressors run up to a private car, jerk the handles, kick the car body, spray paint the windows, affix stickers that are difficult to remove bearing messages like “DO NOT ASK FOR A CHECK”, “I ONLY SPEAK UKRAINIAN”, “THIEF”, or “I STEAL – WHAT WILL YOU DO TO ME?”. It was all accompanied by swearwords and shouts insulting the drivers due to their nationality.

* The taxi drivers’ anger against the Uber drivers has primarily economic reasons

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.6       Assault on a Congolese man – 8 April 2019, Warsaw

A 51-year-old Congolese citizen was attacked in downtown Warsaw by two unknown men. The attackers first insulted him using racial epithets and then beat him and sprayed him with gas. Some dozen minutes after the incident, the two men suspected of these crimes were arrested. After checking the IT system, it transpired that the older of the men had already had a criminal record for promoting fascism. For beating and insulting a Congolese man based on his national origin, the detainees are now facing up to three years in prison.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.7       Beating a Ukrainian actor – 9 April 2019, Warsaw

Artem Manuilov, an actor currently working at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, was attacked on a bus and hit for talking to his wife on the phone in Ukrainian. First, he was hit in the face with a bag – the blow was so strong that tears appeared in his eyes. After a while, he heard: “F*ck you!“, “get the f*ck out of here!” The attacker turned out to be a teacher at one of the Catholic universities.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.8       Taxi driver’s attack on Uber driver from Ukraine – 9 April 2019, Warsaw

A taxi driver from Warsaw stopped in the middle of the road and attacked a Ukrainian driver working for Uber. The whole incident was recorded by the passenger. The recording shows a man coming up to the Uber’s driver’s window and shouting “F*ck you, you Ukrainian wh*re”. Then, he spit on the attacked driver. The police were informed of the case, and the attacker was arrested. The taxi driver admitted aggressive behaviour towards the Ukrainian driver. As reported by the capital city police, the final nature of the charges against him will be decided by the prosecutor.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.9       Battery of two Ukrainian citizens – April 2019, Warsaw

The attack took place in one of the underground passages in Warsaw. Two young Ukrainian citizens were beaten for talking to each other in their native language. The whole incident was recorded by an accidental passer-by. On the video recording, one can see how the Ukrainian youngsters were insulted, called names, and then beaten. The case was reported to the police.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.10     Assault on a Bangladeshi man – 5 May 2019, Brzeziny

A restaurant owner from Bangladesh was insulted and beaten after he asked a drunken man to leave his restaurant. The Polish man became furious: he started shouting that a foreigner would not tell him what to do, because this is his country and his city, and the Bangladeshi should go back to his homeland. He shook his fist at the Bangladeshi and referred to the man’s religion. He shouted to the owner: “You have no right to be here. Unbutton your shirt and show what God is in your heart.” The Pole was reportedly threatening him with death. He said: “You’re going to die here now. Are you prepared for that? Talk to your God.” The assailant inflicted two blows with his hand, on which he had a cast. The first one hit the owner on the face. The second one was blocked by his hand. The man was also aggressive towards the police officers arresting him, who were called by witnesses of the incident.

Current status of the case: On 28 August 2019, the District Court in Łódź sentenced Piotr T. to ten months’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, for battery and abuse based on race and religion, and ordered him to pay PLN 2,000 of compensation to the Bangladeshi man. The sentence is not final.

1.11     Destruction of tombstone photographs – 7 May 2019, Legnica

Several dozen tombstones were destroyed in the municipal cemetery near the Greek-Catholic temple in Legnica. Most of them are Ukrainian graves. The vandals painted the tombstones of the deceased and the image of Our Lady in a mocking way.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.12   Defiling a Ukrainian monument – May 2019, Fredropol

In May 2019, in the cemetery in Fredropol, the monument was defiled with the inscription “f*ck UPA”, “murderers of women and children”. The Union of Ukrainians in Poland submitted a report in this matter. This was not the first such incident at the cemetery in Fredropol. Last November, unknown perpetrators destroyed two Ukrainian graves there. The perpetrators are yet to be found.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.13     Insulting and sexually harassing a Ukrainian woman – 8 June 2019, Kielce

A young Ukrainian woman carrying flowers was stopped by the driver of a passing car, who was accompanied by two other men, and asked where she bought the flowers. When the woman replied that she could not explain exactly because she was not from Poland and the driver made sure that the woman was from Ukraine, he told her: “Get in the car“. When she didn’t know what to answer, he made an offensive gesture by which he explained what he meant. He told her: “You’re gonna have sex with me!” His friends burst out laughing. The woman reported the case to the police station. The man initially pleaded guilty and apologised, though reluctantly. Two days later he denied everything and claimed that the woman had made everything up. The police sent a motion for punishment to the District Court in Kielce. She accused Sebastian D. of “indecent antics” by making “lewd gestures and proposing to have intercourse.” He was facing a reprimand, a fine of up to PLN 1,500 or the penalty of restriction of liberty.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.14     The body of a Ukrainian man abandoned in the forest – 12 June 2019, Jastrzębsko Stare

A 36-year-old named Vasyl worked at a coffin-making plant near Nowy Tomyśl. On a hot day, the man collapsed and lost consciousness. His co-workers wanted to call an ambulance, but the owner of the plant refused and told the workers to go home. Instead of going to the hospital, she took Vasyl to the forest over 100 kilometres away. His corpse was accidentally discovered the next day. One of the Ukrainian workers helped the owner to cover her tracks as she had threatened him with retaliation in case of refusal. Grażyna F. reportedly employed Ukrainian workers off the books. The victim’s friends are convinced that the woman wouldn’t treat her employee in the same way if he were Polish.

Current status of the case: On 9 January 2020, the trial began. The head of the plant was accused of failing to help and inadvertently causing the death of Vasyl. On 8 May, the court sentenced her to one year and ten months’ imprisonment. She is also banned from occupying positions which involve the employment of workers for eight years and also has an eight-year ban on doing business which involves the employment of workers. In this case, Serhiy H. was also accused of helping Grażyna F. to cover up traces of the crime. However, the court found that he did so out of fear. He was sentenced to a fine of PLN 8,000.

1.15      Beating an Indian man – 20 June 2019, Aleksandrów Łódzki

A 26-year-old man from India was attacked at a bus stop. The attacker beat the Indian man with a stick and fists all over his head and body, calling him names. “I tried to defend myself. I grabbed the stick so he couldn’t beat me. Then I fell and he hit me so hard that the stick broke. I felt a stream of blood flowing down my face,” the attacked man said. Soon afterwards, the man lost consciousness. A friend of the beaten man, who soon arrived at the scene, claims that nobody sought to help him. The investigators have no doubt that it was a racial attack. The attacker was arrested but did not plead guilty.

Current status of the case: The aggressor stood trial, where he changed his testimony and confessed to beating the Indian man. He’s facing up to five years in prison.

1.16     “Pogrom” of Ukrainians – 29 June 2019, Gorzów Wielkopolski

A group of ten Ukrainian citizens met in a park in the centre of Gorzów. They were sitting on a bench, talking, drinking beer. Someone from the Ukrainian group smacked his lips at a Polish woman passing by. She answered angrily. After half an hour, already under the influence of alcohol, she returned along with a Polish man from a neighbouring group. She smashed a bottle of beer on the head of one of the Ukrainians. They were surprised and confused. They apologised to the woman several times. After another half an hour, young men started to come to the park from different directions. They were shouting “Get the f*ck out of Poland“, “Down with Ukrainians“, “We’re going to do some clean-up here“. There were about 30-40 of them. Four of the Ukrainians managed to escape. The remaining ones had trash bins thrown at them and were beaten with fists, feet, and bottles. Finally, they were thrown into a pond in the park. The beaten Ukrainian citizens reported to the hospital. While they were waiting for medical examination, other Ukrainian citizens who were beaten in other parts of the city were taken to the same hospital. Several people had their faces cut, eyebrow arches broken, one person had a broken jaw. The suspects were temporarily arrested. All the victims were Ukrainian citizens, who, however, did not want to cooperate with the police, because they were afraid to go to court and to expose themselves to even greater anger from Poles. Moreover, the police themselves didn’t seem to treat the matter seriously. The attack of thirty people was labelled a “brawl” and the police emphasised that nothing indicates that this incident was a national feud.

Current status of the case: Due to the lack of cooperation from the victims, the case was discontinued.

1.17     Public insulting of a couple from India – 29 June 2019, Warsaw

A young couple from India was insulted based on their nationality in a Warsaw supermarket. The aggressor turned out to be an approximately 40-year-old woman whose shoulder was inadvertently touched by the pregnant Indian woman while browsing the shelves. The Polish woman threatened her in English: “Next time be careful or I’ll push you even harder.” When her husband stood up for her, defending her verbally, the woman started calling the couple “damn Pakistanis”. At the cashier’s desk, the couple again met the aggressor who started showing them the middle finger and discussing with her female companion in Polish. The couple, outraged, called the police, who referred them to the supermarket’s security staff. There, however, they encountered difficulties as the security officers did not speak English while the Indian couple did not speak Polish.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.18   Beating an Indian student – 7 July 2019, Gdansk

A student from India, 24-year-old Subhankar, was beaten on a city train. The reason for the aggression was the colour of his skin. One of the passengers called him names, hit him in the face and kicked him in the chest, calling him “f*cking Arab“. The aggressor ran to the nearest station, still shouting “f*ck Islam!“. The police did not want to accept the report from the victim and his friend, citing that because of the holiday season there was no interpreter who could write down the testimony. After the intervention of the Centre for the Monitoring of Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour and phone calls from journalists, an interpreter was successfully found and brought to the police station. The injured man gave testimony in the case the following day.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.19     Attack on an apartment rented by Ukrainian workers – 12/13 July 2019, Warsaw

An unknown perpetrator threw a bottle of gasoline into an apartment that is rented by an Ukrainian crew working on the construction of the Warsaw underground. On the staircase of the same block of flats, the perpetrator spray painted the inscriptions “UPA sl*ts”, “bastards”, “get out of Poland”. In response to the racist attack, the Ukrainian residents sent out a moving letter describing how through their hard work they support their families, but also contribute to Poland’s economy. The case was handled by the Warsaw prosecutor’s office.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.20     Racist attack on an Egyptian worker – 13 July 2019, Mława

Two 22-year-old residents of Działdowo Poviat in the city of Mława insulted and assaulted an Egyptian working in a catering establishment. The man was sworn at and insulted because of his nationality and doused with paint. The perpetrators also poured paint on the stairs and the wall of the restaurant. The local police were involved in the case.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.21     Attack on a Ukrainian woman in the park – 13 August 2019, Szczecin

A woman who moved to Poland from Ukraine ten years before, was attacked in a public place. During her morning workout in the Kasprowicz Park, she noticed a large dog resembling a Doberman, without a leash or muzzle. She was scared of the dog, so she made a comment to its owner. “I asked her to put her dog on a leash. It was a really big animal, and it didn’t obey it’s owner at all”, the victim reported. The woman with the dog reacted aggressively to the Ukrainian accent. She started calling the victim a “sl*t” and “piece of sh*t“. It was then that the wave of insults concerning her nationality began. The Ukrainian woman heard that she “had to go back to her bush” and “go the f*ck back to Ukraine“. Also, the owner was setting the dog against her. The victim claims that for about two years now she has faced discriminatory behaviour from Poles. The case has been reported to the police.

Status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.22     Brutal beating of two Ukrainian brothers – 26 August 2019, Władysławowo

Brothers Mykola (aged 23) and Vladislav (aged 19) lived in Poland on the basis of six-month employee visas. They spent an unlucky night in a club near the beach. While out for a cigarette they were talking to each other in Ukrainian, only to be attacked by two club guards. First, the guards hurled verbal abuse. When the elder brother stood up in verbal defence of the younger one, they both received a large dose of pepper spray in the face. Vladislav was hit with a punch to the head, fell on the pavement and probably lost consciousness. He was reportedly pulled and dragged along the pavement by one of the guards. At the same time, the other guard struck Mykola in the head with his fist, after which he fell down and hit his head against the hard surface of the pavement. The attacker continued to beat and kick the 23-year-old man. Mykola was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Gdansk, where he was in a coma for 18 days. The list of injuries he suffered is long: swelling of the left-brain hemisphere, ruptured skull, cerebral hematoma, interruption of the continuity of his auditory ossicles. He also suffers from left side paresis, which requires long rehabilitation. The young man had hearing problems and serious memory loss. He could not speak; he communicated in writing. In November, the local media reported that he was recovering very slowly, however, he still needs a long recovery and rehabilitation. The Puck prosecutor’s office has brought charges of a racist attack against two men. Przemysław J. was arrested for a period of three months, and Paweł G., was placed under house arrest, received a ban on leaving the country and a financial guarantee of PLN 20,000. The severity of the charges against Przemysław J. and Przemysław G. will largely depend on Mykola’s health condition and the results of his treatment.

Current status of the case: The date of the court hearing was to be made public in January 2020, but it’s yet to be announced.

1.23     Beating a Bangladeshi man – 21-22 September 2019, Łódź

A robbery took place in front of a kebab shop in Łódź. Drunken attackers kicked the door and tried to get in. Then they accosted a Bangladeshi employee leaving the premises. They called him names and beat him on the back. The restaurant worker tried to defend himself. The attackers started chasing their victim, shouting at him: “you filthy wog, n*gger, don’t you want to make me a kebab?” The police received a report on the case but treated the incident as “a hooligan act“.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.24     Murder of a Roma man – 2 October 2019, Wrocław

A 26-year-old Roma man was found injured at night, near his house. The man’s legs and pelvis were broken, and he died in the hospital. The Roma Association in Poland issued a statement in which they appealed to the police and the prosecutor’s office to quickly find the perpetrators and punish them, as well as to take the victim’s family under police and psychological care. “This case can be a crossing of a certain limit of hatred towards minorities living in Poland”, the Roma association believes. They fear that the case “will be swept under the carpet“.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.25   Knife attack on an Egyptian man – 15 October 2019, Łódź

A car park guard, Krzysztof P. attacked an Egyptian citizen on the basis of race. He claimed, however, that he was the first to be called names by the foreigner who did not want to pay the parking fee. The Polish man insulted him, saying: “Get the f*ck out of our country, you filthy Pakis!” and he stabbed him in the hand with a knife.

Current status of the case: On 6 February 2020, the trial began. The defendant admitted to inflicting injury, but strongly denied a racial motive.

1.26     Assault on an Indian citizen – 25 October 2019, Gorzów Wielkopolski

A 31-year-old Indian citizen was attacked by a young woman. Initially, the 24-year-old woman used offensive words against him and insulted him based on his nationality. She reportedly told him to leave Poland. At one point, the woman hit the man in the face and when he fell, she took his bag with 500 euros inside and ran away. The victim was hospitalised due to facial injuries. The woman doesn’t admit to the accusation. The police and the prosecutor’s office announced a motion to apply to the court for temporary arrest of the woman. She is facing up to 12 years in prison for her crimes.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.27   Desecration of Ukrainian graves – October 2019, Pikulice near Przemyśl

Unknown perpetrators desecrated the mass grave of Ukrainian soldiers at the cemetery in Pikulice, painting it with white and red paint. Tombstones with the names of the deceased soldiers and Ukrainian coats of arms engraved on the crosses were covered with the paint. When the employees of the Town Hall were informed and went to the scene, the paint had already been removed.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.28   Public insulting of a Ukrainian woman, insulting the Ukrainian nation – 1-14 November 2019, Olsztyn

A young woman published a film on the Internet, in which she reported the conditions of her travelling by train. She used offensive words to describe another passenger, of Ukrainian origin, and other Ukrainians. She compared them to animals and mocked the profession of a woman: “I study medicine, and that woman is a cleaning lady, so it seems that the hierarchy is maintained,” the student stated in the recording. The university authorities suspended her and reported the case to the prosecutor’s office.

Current status of the case: The student has published an apology online. The prosecutor’s office proceedings are underway. The young woman is still suspended from the university.

1.29     Severe beating of a Ukrainian man – 17 November 2019, Zary

Two young Poles beat up a Ukrainian man, 30-year-old Andriy, to the point of unconsciousness. It probably started with an exchange of opinions. It ended with a heavy beating, which the media describe as “gruesome“. It is unknown how long the victim was waiting for help. Someone took pity on the injured Ukrainian man and called an ambulance. The victim had a serious cranial/brain and chest injury. In a very serious condition, he was taken to a hospital in Zielona Góra, where he underwent neurosurgery. He had numerous chest and head injuries. His condition was described by the doctors as critical. The attackers were arrested for three months. However, their actions were not classified as a hate crime, but only as a “typical hooligan act“. They face up to eight years in prison, or more if the victim does not survive.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.30     Severe injury caused to a Ukrainian man – 24 November 2019

Twenty-four-year-old Stanislav was hit in the head with a bottle in the centre of Poznań. This happened when he stood up for his friend, who was accosted by Poles because of a “foreign language”. He was hit with a bottle by a Polish man, one of the participants in the brawl. The next day the Ukrainian victim fell into a coma. The doctors diagnosed him with a broken skull and an intracranial hematoma. A fundraiser for Stanislav’s treatment was announced on the Internet.

Current status of the case: The Poznań police, in turn, managed to find the perpetrator who had beaten the victim. The man has already faced the charges of serious injury. Stanislav woke up from a coma but is still fighting for his life.

1.31     Racist attacks on a 12-year-old girl of Roma origin – November-December 2019

Just after winning the Eurovision Junior competition, racist insults and comments started to be published online against 12-year-old Vika Gabor. “You’re all so excited about her, and she’s not even Polish, she’s just a Kraut gypsy.” “Eliminations are conducted by people who promote LGBT and multi-culti… precisely because Viktoria Gabor is a German gypsy, she got a nomination. If she was Polish, she wouldn’t have had a chance neither to be nominated nor to win“, “A gypsy girl born in Germany, raised in England, won for Poland… Multiculturalism as f*ck“, “Proud? Should we be proud? I think the Gypsies should.” – at least a few dozen such comments appeared, also under the post of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland and the congratulations that Andrzej Duda offered to the young vocalist. Among the threats, many of which appeared on the website of the pro-government weekly magazine DoRzeczy, there were those in which racists called for dousing the child with flammable liquid and burning her.

Current status of the case: The report about the hateful attacks was submitted by the Roma Association in Poland. The Krakow prosecutor’s office refused to investigate the case. Also the District Prosecutor’s Office for Warszawa Żoliborz issued a decision refusing to initiate proceedings in the case of threats and insults against the young singer, including those related to burning the teenager. Therefore, a complaint was filed with the Warsaw District Court.

1.32   Ukrainian citizen beaten by his employer – 13 December 2019, Warsaw

A Ukrainian citizen worked in Poland off the books for a month. When he asked for a legal contract, he was reportedly beaten, and his boss, in unsophisticated words, told him to get out of Poland. “When I approached him, he fell on me, hit me in the head and arm. […] He shouted that he’s the boss here, and I’m a dumb man, and that if I don’t like it here, I should get the f*ck back Ukraine” – the man reported. When he told the policemen on the phone about what happened to him, the officers suggested that he should undergo a physical examination and come to the police station with the results. A few days later, with the help of a lawyer, he filed a report on the beating. He also intends to notify the State Labour Inspectorate about the incident.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

1.33   Beating a Chechen citizen – 23 December 2019, Sępólno Krajeńskie

The assault against the Chechen citizen happened at night. According to the findings of the journalists, the attacker did not like the darker complexion of a Chechen man who worked as a volunteer in Poland and the fact that he did not speak Polish. The police have assured us that the circumstances are being analysed under the supervision of the prosecutor’s office.

The current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2. Homophobic crimes

In the ILGA Europe ranking analysing the level of equality of LGBTI people, Poland, for the third time, ranked next to last among EU countries. Of 100 possible points, it scored 18. In turn, a study conducted by the CAH (Campaign Against Homophobia) along with the University of Warsaw’s Center for Prejudice Research shows that 70 percent of LGBTI youth living in Poland have suffered violence.

This result, according to the experts, is based on a lack of action on the part of the Polish government to promote equality of rights for LGBTIs and even actions aimed at their persecution. For example, the president of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyński, suggested in one of his speeches that one cannot be both a Pole and a person supporting the LGBTI community: “We don’t have to be like those who live in the West, we don’t have to stand under a rainbow flag, we can stand under a white and red one. This is our manifesto” (a week later, the Equality Parade was held in Lublin, where counterdemonstrators used violence including a thwarted assassination attempt), and Kaczyński called the Warsaw president’s support for LGBTIs “an attack on children and families”. Similar rhetoric was used by the Church and conservative elements.

Law and Justice and other conservative parties based their 2019 election campaign for the European Parliament on homophobic slogans. The government labelled a possible election defeat “the beginning of an ideological war”.

In 2019, more than 80 Polish cities declared themselves to be “LGBT-free zones” or “LGBT ideology-free”. The Lublin Province Governor even gave awards to local officials “for fighting LGBT“. In turn, in February 2019, Małopolska’s Law and Justice chief education officer publicly linked homosexuality with paedophilia. She also opposed the organisation of “Rainbow Friday” in schools, calling the action “perversion of students” and threatening schools with inspections.

Polish legislation also hinders the functioning of LGBTI people. In Poland, homosexual marriages are prohibited. On 8 January 2019, the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw dismissed a complaint concerning the refusal to register a same-sex marriage concluded abroad. In December 2019, in turn, the Supreme Administrative Court adopted a decision that the registration of a foreign birth certificate of a child of same-sex parents is illegal. Children of same-sex marriages born and registered abroad cannot, therefore, receive a Polish passport or ID card, or a PESEL number.

As early as in 2013, the UN Committee Against Torture recommended that Poland introduce appropriate amendments to the Penal Code to punish hate crimes as acts of discrimination and violence on grounds of sexual orientation, disability and age. In the following years, individual centre and left-wing parties proposed amendments to Articles 119 [the use of violence or an unlawful threat against a group of people or an individual because of their national, ethnic, racial, political, religious affiliation or because of their non-denominational status], 256 [public propagation of a fascist or other totalitarian state system or incitement to hatred on the basis of national, ethnic, racial, religious differences or on grounds of non-denominationalism] and 257 [publicly insulting a group of people or an individual because of their national, ethnic, racial, religious affiliation or because of their non-denominational status or violating the physical integrity of another person for such reasons]. All amendments were voted down, as a result of which the Polish Penal Code does not provide penalties for public insults on grounds of sexual orientation to this day.

In 2017, the Polish government adopted the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council in the area of human rights. However, the Ministry of Justice officially admitted that the implementation of the recommendations on hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, age, gender and disability “is not among the most urgent and relevant social and judicial needs”.

Selected cases:

2.1       Attack on a high school student – 3 January 2019, Warsaw

Two men attacked a 16-year-old boy on a bus. First, they called him a “queer,” “moron,” “pansy,” then, they threatened him with a knife and kicked him after blocking his way to the driver. The other passengers did not react. The boy took advantage of his assailants’ momentary inattention and ran up to the driver, who immediately called the police and slowed down to 20 km per hour. He stopped at the nearest stop and closed the door from inside. The men started running on the bus, shouting, asking why the bus was not moving. They tried to leave. Eventually they ripped the door open and ran away. According to the boy, the men attacked him because they did not like his hairstyle and clothes.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.2       Beating for homophobic reasons – 22 February 2019, Wroclaw

Security officers attacked several club-goers for homophobic reasons. One of the victims, who came to the club with his partner, reported: “[The guards – ed.] commented loudly that we are certainly of a different orientation.” According to the man, the workers committed violence when they saw that two of his other friends locked arms and because of that assumed they were homosexual. Then, the guard reportedly shouted: “What queers! We won’t let it spread out here in the club” and attacked them. The security officer hit a man so that he banged his head against the countertop and fell under the bar, covered in blood. Then, the security officer attacked the other man. The men from the cloakroom [the other guards – ed.] immediately jumped on him and started to hit with their fists. None of the witnesses reacted to this incident. Acts of aggression against a group of friends also reportedly took place in front of the building. An ambulance was called to the scene. One of the victims had a broken nose, the second had crushed sinuses, the third had a damaged jaw and the fourth had a broken rib. The manager of the Wesele club, in a statement to the media, denied that the security guards attacked the clients, and then declared: “We have nothing to blame ourselves for”. The police investigated the case. They applied to the club to secure the surveillance materials. However, the press office of the city police chief in Wroclaw was not able to establish any details of the case for two days.

The current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.3     Beating of a homosexual man by his neighbour – 14 March 2019, Warsaw

Tomasz, a 41-year-old man, was persecuted by his neighbour for a year. It started with insults during accidental meetings. On 14 March 2019, the fisticuffs began. Tomasz was first called names in front of a shop, and when he accelerated his walk, the attacker started chasing him. The persecuted man called the police and took refuge in a nearby shop. There, the aggressor caught the victim and struck him in the face with his fist. A saleswoman rescued him and took him to the back of the shop so that Tomasz could hide there and wait for the police to arrive. In the meantime, the attacker ran away. Tomasz suffered multiple fractures of the orbital bone with displacement.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.4     Attack by “family defenders” on two boys – 18 March 2019, Warsaw

During the “parents’ protest against LGBT” near the Warsaw City Hall, slogans inciting hatred were shouted from the stage. The crowd picked them up and shouted out that LGBT people were “deviants,” with “perverted hands stretched out to grab our children”. When two guys appeared in front of the stage chanting “Enough manipulation, enough hatred!” the crowd moved towards them. In the recording published online one can see how the boys have their mouths covered with hands, their hair is pulled, and they are knocked to the ground. The police did not react.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.5     Incitement to assassination of homosexual people – March 2019, Zachodniopomorskie Voivodship

A man called online to “eradicate”, “incarcerate” or “put down gays and lesbians”, calling them “degenerates”. He was not ashamed of his views; when he had the opportunity, he did not recant his words. The Centre for the Monitoring of Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour submitted a criminal complaint.

Current status of the case: On 3 February 2020, the man stood trial for charges under Article 255 of the Penal Code – incitement to commit a crime. He pleaded guilty. Due to his health condition, the court did not apply the penalty of restriction of freedom and the necessity to perform social work but sentenced him to a fine.

2.6     Brutal beating for homophobic reasons – 30/31 March, Warsaw

An assailant beat one of the clients of the Pianka z Tanka restaurant for homophobic reasons. The man was attacked when he was leaving the restaurant. In a media statement, he reported: “He fell on me. I remember that he hit me. I was holding the phone in my hand, I started recording it. You can see the attacker’s face. (…) I woke up by some nearby cars”. As a result of the attack, the man suffered an injury to his face and eye, he also had a broken kneecap. He was sitting in the restaurant along with two friends. “We were joking. Our conversation showed that I was gay. The assailant could have heard that, and that’s why he attacked me later.” According to the injured party, the perpetrator was an employee of the restaurant. The manager of the restaurant denied it. The police have initiated proceedings for personal injury and destruction of a mobile phone worth several thousand Polish zlotys. The report does not indicate that it could have been a homophobic attack, because the attacker did not hear any offensive words.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.7       Beating of a fashion designer on homophobic grounds – 7 May 2019, Gdynia

The attack took place before midnight, when the fashion designer went out to a nearby shop. He was attacked by three men and beaten until he lost consciousness.“They kept beating me anyway. They threw me into the bushes and covered me with a black bag. They must have thought I was dead. They thought I was gay. ‘Beat the queer,’ they yelled” – the victim reported. The man was hospitalised in Gdynia with serious injuries – he had broken skull bones, head injuries and broken teeth. After leaving the hospital, the fashion designer reported the incident at the police station. The police officers accepted the report and are in the process of verifying all information.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.8       Homophobic attack and beating a photographer – 24 May 2019, Warsaw

Several dozen people met at the Łazienkowski Bridge to commemorate Milo Mazurkiewicz, a transgender person who had committed suicide there a few weeks earlier. During the symbolic farewell, those gathered were attacked by a group of men who tried to tear the rainbow flag hung by Milo’s friends on the bridge, and then pushed and hit the participants themselves. The participants stopped two aggressive men. A photojournalist was among the people attacked. “I was taking pictures when one of the attackers fell on me with his fists,” he stated. In order to bring about the court trial, he had to collect the evidence himself and pay. The event was classified as a violation of bodily integrity – hence the private prosecution procedure.

Current status of the case: In November last year, a hearing was held, during which a settlement was reached. The assailant was supposed to pay PLN 1000 to Campaign Against Homophobia and to post an apology in the Gazeta Stołeczna and the Replika [LGBTQIA socio-cultural bimonthly – ed.] by 1 January 2020. He hasn’t met any of the conditions. The fight for their implementation rests with the victim and the lawyers who support the victim.

2.9     Attacks by nationalists at the Equality Parade – 8 June 2019, Warsaw

Near the venue of the Equality Parade, attended by several thousand people, a homophobic counterdemonstration was organised by radical opponents of abortion from the Catholic foundation “Pro – the right to life”. They called their action “Stop Paedophilia”. The recordings and testimonies of witnesses indicate that at least two of its participants were striving for physical confrontation with the peaceful parade. One of them is the president of the Independence March Association, formerly the leader of the extreme right-wing National-Radical Camp, Robert Bąkiewicz, who fell on an 18-year-old anti-fascist. The recording shared on a social networking site shows how another homophobe attacks the woman filming the event. The police identified the participants of the clashes. The anti-fascists were dragged along the pavement and forcibly led to the police cars. Nothing like this has happened to the participants of the homophobic counterdemonstration. A young anti-fascist announced that he is going to report the crime. It is not known why the officers did not accept an oral report on the spot.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.10     Assault on participants in the Equality March – 20 July 2019, Białystok

The first Equality March in Białystok was held under the slogan “Białystok is home for everyone”. Several attempts were made to block the passage of the march participants, including by representatives of the football fan community, encouraged by right-wing politicians and priests. The police had to use gas. Stones, firecrackers, eggs and bottles were thrown at the participants of the Equality March and offensive words were shouted out. The video recordings show how the opponents of the march beat the participants, including teenagers and women. About 20 incidents were registered as potential crimes against the participants of the event and the use of threats and violence against the police protecting the march was recorded. Charges were brought against seven people, while two were put under arrest. In their sermons, the Białystok priests thanked the attackers for defending the city and traditional values, but the Metropolitan of Białystok distanced himself from violence.

Current status of the case: The court handed down its first verdict in the case of assault on a teenage participant of the march whose collar bone was broken as a result of a beating. The 25-year-old assailant was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison. The status of other cases remains unknown.

2.11   Release of “LGBT-free zone” stickers to the market – 24 July 2019

On Wednesday, 17 July, the ‘Gazeta Polska’ announced that the next issue of the weekly would be sold with stickers with the words ‘LGBT-free zone’. The editor-in-chief of the weekly Tomasz Sakiewicz stated that his aim was not to incite hatred and that due to the freedom of speech in Poland, his newspaper has the right to distribute such materials. The campaign was condemned by many public figures, including the U.S. Ambassador and the Vice President of Warsaw, who, like several activists and NGOs, reported a crime (promoting fascism or another totalitarian system) to the Warsaw prosecutor’s office. LGBT activist Bartosz Staszewski sued the publisher of the “Gazeta Polska” for violation of personal rights and filed a motion to order the withdrawal of these stickers from distribution to secure the claims.

Current status of the case: Warsaw Prosecutor’s Office has refused to initiate proceedings in connection with the promotion of fascism or other totalitarian regime. However, Bartosz Staszewski, who sued the GP publisher for infringement of personal rights, won his first trial in July 2019. The District Court then ordered the withdrawal of all stickers from distribution. The publisher of the “Gazeta Polska” appealed against the judgment but lost again.

2.12   Incitement to hatred of LGBT communities – 1 August 2019, Krakow

During a Catholic mass commemorating the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, Krakow Metropolitan Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski called the LGBT community a “Rainbow Plague”: “The red plague no longer walks on our land, but a new neo-Marxist one has appeared, wanting to control our souls, hearts and minds. Not red, but a rainbow,” he stated during the sermon. These words, which widely reverberated in the media, triggered a wave of criticism and resulted in reports submitted to the prosecutor’s office. The reports concerned, among other things, incitement to hatred and promotion of fascism. Most of them were submitted by private individuals, two were received from associations fighting against xenophobic and racist behaviour.

Current status of the case: The Prosecutor’s Office initially refused to initiate proceedings in connection with the words uttered by the Archbishop. Complaints have been filed against its decision. However, again, the Prosecutor’s Office decided not to initiate proceedings as it did not see any elements of incitement to hatred in the sermon, and the Polish Criminal Code does not provide for penalties for public insults based on sexual orientation.

2.13   Beating and insulting on the basis of sexual orientation – 7 August 2019, Warsaw

A man was accosted, first with insults: “F*ck you, you queer.” When he asked the attacker not to speak to him like that, he heard even more insults (“What are you going to do to me, you queer, cunt, dickhead, faggot”) and was struck in the face. Then the aggressor, still challenging the man, fell on him, started to hit him with his fists, then began to choke him. The victim was lying being choked for as many as 40 minutes. As a result, his thyroid cartilage was pressed down and he has now difficulties with swallowing. The man is convinced that the assailant’s female companion was recording the event. He claims that the passers-by did not react and that the police called to the scene preferred to listen to the attackers. He was mocked at the police station because of his sexual orientation. Finally, the report that the police officers accepted concerns a violation of physical integrity.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.14   Attack on participants of the Equality March – 17 August 2019, Radomsko

The Radomsko Patriotic Society tried to block the First Equality March in Radomsko, demanding a ban from the city mayor. They did not succeed. The National Radical Camp, the National Movement, All-Polish Youth and the Association for the Remembrance of Soldiers of the Home Army, Underground Polish Army, and the National Armed Forces “Faithful Until the End” announced a counterdemonstration. For a few days, in Radomsko, posters with the information about the march were torn down or covered with others, on which the opponents were threatening the inhabitants that “men dressed up as dogs” and “naked deviants” would come to the city”. During the March, one of the men attacked the peaceful participants of the event. He was agitated and aggressive, shouting offensive slogans. He was incapacitated by the police officers protecting the march. Officially, the police have reported dozens of interventions against violent counterdemonstrators.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.15     “Decontamination” of streets after the LGBT march – 14 September 2019, Szczecin

A happening entitled “We’ll wash away LGBT, we’ll save the family”, which consisted of disinfecting the streets after the Equality March, ultimately did not take place. At a press conference concerning the demonstration, its organisers, the All-Polish Youth, encouraged by a local priest and actively supported by a Law and Justice party City Council member, compared LGBT people to vermin and pestilence. Eventually, they abandoned the idea, but on the same day, they “disinfected” the square where there was a rainbow painted with chalk and the inscription “Szczecin free from homophobia”. Left-wing circles and activists filed a report of a crime.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

2.16   Attempted bombing at the Equality March – 28 September 2019, Lublin

The police detained 38 people who tried to disrupt the Equality March and did not rule out further arrests. A couple from Lublin prepared explosive charges and brought them to the event. According to experts, homemade bombs thrown into the crowd could have caused a tragedy. However, the couple was detained by the police in time. The Lublin court decided on a temporary, three-month arrest for the couple.

Current status of the case: In January 2020, the Lublin-Zachód District Court received a bill of indictment in the case of seven aggressive people who tried to disrupt the Equality March. All of them are accused of taking an active part in a gathering whose participants committed a violent attack on a person or property. This is punishable by up to three years in prison. The court, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, has applied a preventive measure against the defendants in the form of police supervision and the obligation to report at the police station twice a week. In February 2020, the couple preparing a bomb attack against participants of the march was sentenced to a year of imprisonment without the possibility of suspension, but they are still at large while waiting for the court sentence to become final. The court agreed to release them from the arrest in which they had been previously held.

2.17     “Gay Hunt” – 29 September 2019, Krakow

In Krakow, a gay man was beaten up as he was leaving a club. The situation was recorded by witnesses who had previously noticed the two aggressors clearly “hunting” people leaving the club. The victim was sprayed with pepper spray and beaten. One of the witnesses called the police. Still, the police mocked the caller. In the meantime, the aggressors came back, spat on the witness and the victim lying on the pavement. They said: “F*ck you, you queer, f*cking wh*re. Should we treat all of you with gas? Take it, you f*cking wh*res! F*ck faggots! Your ass is for shit, not for queer f*cking!”. The witness called the police again. A police car arrived 45 minutes later. “I heard people coming up to us later say that attacks on gay or lesbian people near the club are commonplace. Many times, the police don’t come, brushing off those reporting the crime as soon as they heard it was a gay club. Very often, people are accosted there, insulted, robbed and beaten. Nobody even does anything about it anymore, as the police have no intention of coming there,” stated the man who called the police.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

3. Crimes based on religion

Religious attacks in Poland occur daily. An upward trend began in 2015, which is connected with the migration crisis in Europe and the election campaign in Poland, during which the fear of refugees and immigrants was publicly used. According to the report published in 2017 by the National Prosecutor’s Office on cases of racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic crimes, it appears that Muslims were the most frequently attacked during this period. This number is growing every year. According to experts, the main reason for this trend is the consent of the state and building a migration policy based on discrimination, as well as insufficient intervention by institutions and the Church in Poland. Between 70% to 80% of hate crimes cases are discontinued at the prosecutor’s office level.

Selected cases:

3.1     Racist attack on a Muslim woman and her three-month-old child – 2 August 2019, Rzeszów

A man attacked a woman in a hijab and her three-month-old baby. He pushed the stroller hard, trying to knock it over. He shouted “Get the f*ck out of here, you filthy bastards”, he also made a Nazi salute and called out “White power!“. According to the account of the Muslim woman living in Rzeszów, a woman who accompanied the man tried to calm him down, to which he reportedly answered: “What do I care about some little Arab brat and a filthy Paki?“. The attacked woman shouted with all her might: “I’m a Pole, and he’s a Pole, a Pole!” to which the man replied “I don’t give a sh*t. Both you and him should be killed“. The Municipal Police Headquarters in Rzeszów accepted the report of a crime based on national origin.

Current status of the case: The man faced charges of directing punishable threats and insults due to religious affiliation. He confessed to insulting a Muslim woman but denied that he had threatened the woman and her child with death and that he shouted racist and Nazi slogans. The man is under house arrest and has a ban on leaving the country. He also had to pay 1.5 thousand zlotys of financial guarantee. He is facing five years in prison.

3.2       Attack on a Muslim woman wearing hijab – 20 October 2019, Krakow

The event took place in one of Krakow’s trams. The woman had a hijab on her head. The assailants – a group of young people – attacked the woman and tried to rip the Muslim shawl off her head. The victim reported the case to the police. The officers initiated an investigation, which is being conducted under the supervision of the prosecutor’s office; preliminarily, in connection with insulting and violating physical integrity due to national, ethnic, racial and religious affiliation.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

3.3       Preparing an assassination attempt against Muslims – 10 November 2019, Warsaw, Szczecin

On the eve of Independence Day, the Internal Security Agency detained people linked with nationalist elements who were preparing an assassination attempt against Muslims in Poland. They were to use weapons and explosives for this purpose. The detainees planned the attack, following the example of terrorist attacks by Anders Breivik in Norway and Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand. During the arrests in Warsaw and Szczecin, the Internal Security Agency officers secured firearms, explosives and eight vials of highly toxic substances.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

4. Anti-Semitic hate crimes

At the end of 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published the results of a survey carried out from April to June in 18 countries around the world, particularly in Europe. It shows that among the audited countries, Poland is the most anti-Semitic country, and compared to 2015, the percentage of Poles with anti-Semitic views increased by 11 percentage points.

The Citizens of Poland Organisation claims that the increase in anti-Semitic sentiment in Poland is caused, among other things, by government-run and pro-government media. From the reports of “Wiadomości” (‘The News’), viewers learn that it was Jews who collaborated with Germans and Poles are not responsible for German crimes. The MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk said in an interview for wpolitce.pl: “The Jews received a lot of money from the Germans and they are still getting it. They decided that now is the time for us. The Jews want to draw money from Poland. (…) Poland will not allow anyone to impose anything, nor will it allow anyone to draw anything from it”. Thus, the Citizens of Poland put forward a thesis that watching these media can influence the views and behaviour of the perpetrators of an increasing number of anti-Semitic acts. The Internet also plays an important role in stirring anti-Semitic sentiment. Increasingly people in Poland have come to support a party called Konfederacja (Confederation), which openly expresses anti-Semitic views.

Selected cases:

4.1     Anti-Semitic slogans during a march and misdemeanour menacing – 27 January 2019, Oświęcim

On the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, an extreme nationalist leader, Piotr Rybak, organised a march to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, where anti-Semitic incidents took place. He delivered a speech to those gathered, during which he shouted: “Are we an independent country? It is time to fight against Jewry and free Poland from it!” He also said: “It’s time to get up off your knees and say to those Jewish invaders: that’s enough. We are the masters of this country“, “As usual, these Jewish scums seek provocation, but they failed“, and “Poland for Poles“. At the entrance to the Museum, several people were holding an anti-fascist banner and the flag of Israel as a gesture of protest against the demonstration organised by Rybak. Rybak addressed one of them with the following words: “I won’t talk to you, you are nobody and nothing to me“. Other participants of his gathering also directed insults and threats towards the protesters: “You would have been gone in a cloud of smoke by now“, “What are you looking for here with this Jewish rag“, “Israeli provocation”, “Show your foreskin and your side curls.”

Current status of the case: The prosecutor’s office has brought charges of public hate speech based on nationality differences against the organiser of the march. At the beginning of May 2019, the District Court in Oświęcim sentenced him to a year of community service of 30 hours per month. Rybak stated that this sentence was a shame for the justice system, because he “told the truth”.

4.2     Destruction of a monument commemorating the local synagogue – 27/28 January 2019, Kłodzko

Unknown perpetrators destroyed the monument commemorating the synagogue burned down in 1938 during the Jewish pogrom. A plaque with inscriptions in Hebrew, German and Polish discussing the history of the placewas torn from the obelisk. On 30 January, the District Prosecutor’s Office in Kłodzko launched an investigation.

The current status of the case: On the initiative of local social activists, a new plaque was installed on the monument on 22 March 2019. The perpetrators of the destruction are yet to be identified.

4.3     Incitement to hatred against Jews – 1 March 2019, Wrocław

The march in honour of “cursed soldiers” was led by Jacek Międlar, a former priest, famous for his anti-Semitic views, and Roman Zieliński, the author of the book “Jak kochałem Adolfa Hitlera” (“How I fell in love with Adolf Hitler”). During the event, the participating nationalists shouted “We are the hosts of this town, we, the Poles!”, “Jewish communists are worse than the Nazis”, “Down with the Jewish occupation”. Observers from Wrocław City Hall dissolved the assembly after two warnings. The organisers reported the case to the court; however, according to the final judgment, the city had the right to dissolve the march at that time. On 6 March 2019, representatives of Wrocław City Hall submitted two reports of a crime with the prosecutor’s office – the first one concerned the use of hate speech during the march, especially against the Jewish diaspora, while the second one was connected with Międlar’s calls, uttered a few days later, to lynch the officials who dissolved the march. This has been officially characterised as “exerting a threat of unlawful influence on the official activities of a local authority”.

Current status of the case: The organiser of the march was arrested by Interal Security Agency officers in connection with these and other charges, but also connected with anti-Semitism.

4.4     Anti-Semitic slogan on the cemetery wall – 21 April 2019, Oświęcim

During Easter, an unknown perpetrator painted gallows and the words “Jude” “hung” on it on the wall of the Jewish cemetery in Oświęcim.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

4.5     Insulting Jews, disturbing a Jewish music concert – 11-16 June 2019, Białystok

In a request to the Metropolitan of Białystok (cc’ed to the mayor of Białystok and the Marshal and Voivode of Podlasie, as well as parish priests of the Białystok Archdiocese and the organisers of the far right Independence March), the parishioners of St. Roch’s Church and the inhabitants of Białystok (as they call themselves) “expressed their deep opposition and great indignation” in connection with “conducting concerts in the church, organised by the Israeli Embassy in Poland”. In the letter, they called Jews “Talmudic devils“, among other things, and the permission for the concert “backsliding from the Catholic faith and betrayal of Polish tradition and culture”. The Monitoring Centre for Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour reported the case to the prosecutor’s office along with a motion for prosecution and punishment. The concert itself took place, but four men tried to disturb it by ostentatiously singing the traditional Polish song “God! Thou surrounded Poland for so many centuries”. The police intervened, and one of the men who behaved aggressively towards a camera operator, was arrested. A few weeks earlier, the District Prosecutor’s Office of Praga Północ District had filed an indictment against another man in connection with public insults against people of Jewish nationality.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

5. Hate crimes based on nationalist and Nazi views

In January 2017, non-governmental organisations raised the alarm that the Polish government was cutting money for training courses for police officers and services in the field of recognising and preventing hate crimes. Six months earlier, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration had withdrawn the handbook for police officers to identify crimes motivated by hatred and discrimination, considering it “ideologised”. This was because there were Nazi symbols in the brochure, including a phalanx modelled on the Nazi swastika, which did not appeal to those who wanted to use it legally.

After the 20 January 2018 broadcast of a story on Polish neo-Nazis by reporters of TVN24’s “Superwizjer”, the Law and Justice government reacted immediately in order to avoid accusations of favouring the radical right. The Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro ordered the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate an investigation and take up the “issue of banning” the Pride and Modernity Association. The Internal Security Agency has already detained several members of the organisation. According to journalists, however, these were actions for appearances’ sake, and the Law and Justice party, in fact, turned a blind eye to other actions of nationalists and neo-Nazis. For example: demanding from the prosecutor’s office that the prison sentence against Piotr Rybak, sentenced for burning a Jew in effigy in the Wrocław market square, be reduced, withdrawal of the indictment against the National Radical Camp activist for incitement to hatred of Muslims (she referred to them with names, such as “Islamic scum”) and the discontinuation of the proceedings by the Częstochowa prosecutor’s office in connection with the propagation of hatred in the charter of the National Radical Camp.

Selected cases:

5.1     Nationalist slogans during a pilgrimage – 5 January 2019, Częstochowa

During the Patriotic Football Fans’ Pilgrimage to Jasna Góra, some “football fans” of Silesia Wrocław exhibited scarves with the slogan “White Brothers” and the Celtic cross. The “football fans” of Silesia also had scarves with the slogan “Death to the enemies of the homeland”, which is nowadays a slogan of ideological aggression. In turn, the football pseudo-fans of Wisła Kraków exhibited scarves with the nationalist slogan “Lviv is Poland” in the Jasna Góra monastery. Some “football fans” from Częstochowa had scarves which bore a flag used in the USA during the Civil War by the southern states fighting for the maintenance of slavery.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

5.2     Fascist symbols on an NGO’s office – 25 February 2019, Warsaw

The entrance to the headquarters of the NGO Citizens of Poland was disfigured with fascist graffiti and symbols. The photos published online include a Celtic cross and slogans: “Red Pigs”, “UBCitizens”, the Nazi phrase “Jude raus”, “Death to Traitors”, “UBCitizens are wh*res”. Two days earlier, the Citizens of Poland were in Hajnówka in Podlasie, where they took part in a protest against the march of “cursed soldiers” organised by the nationalists. The disfigurement of the entrance to their office is directly linked to this. The city committed itself to cover the fascist graffiti with paint, and the case was handled by the police.

The current status of the case: UNKNOWN

5.3     Nationalist and anti-Semitic slogans during a march, insulting counterdemonstrators – 1 March 2019, Warsaw

On the occasion of the National Day of Remembrance of the so-called Cursed Soldiers, a march organised by the Independence March Association, National Radical Camp and All-Polish Youth passed through the streets of the capital city. Its participants chanted: “Death to the enemies of the homeland!” and “’Bury’ is our hero” [Romuald Rajs aka „Bury” – he was a commander of a branch of the National Military Union, which was responsible for committing the crime of genocide against people of the Belarusian Orthodox religion in 1946 in Podlasie – ed.]. One of the demonstrators also displayed a banner with inscription: “Too many Jews, including March emigrants, murdered the Cursed Soldiers”. When the march reached the Ukrainian embassy, its participants shouted “From cradle to grave, Polish is Vilnius, Polish is Lviv!”. On Rakowiecka Street and the Trzech Krzyży Square, on the other hand, they hurled anti-Semitic slurs at a group of people who protested against fascism. Supporters of the National Radical Camp and the All-Polish Youth chanted: “Go to Israel, hymie!”, “Go back to Israel!” and “Semitic nits.”

Current status of the case: The police did not see any elements of crime in the behaviour of the participants of the demonstration but removed the anti-fascists from the route of the march. Neither did the employees of Warsaw City Hall react; they decided not to dissolve the march.

5.4     Vandalising facades with threats and fascist inscriptions – 7-9 March 2019, Wroclaw

On the buildings which are seats of several NGOs and institutions dealing with supporting the cultural diversity of the city, unknown perpetrators painted anti-Semitic and fascist graffiti and symbols (Celtic crosses), as well as threats, such as “Death to leftist wh*res, we will f*cking kill you Shabbos goys”, “Kill leftist” or “Kill feminists”. The local police investigated the case.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

5.5       Fascist symbols on the library walls – 9/10 March 2019, Warsaw

The wall of the Krasinski Library was covered with the following signs: swastika, the Star of David hanging from the gallows, the so-called Wolfsangels (stylised swastika, a symbol used by the SS armoured divisions), and the inscriptions “14/88” and “C18”*. The capital city police investigated the case.

*The number 14 refers to the neo-Nazi slogan – the so-called fourteen words: “We must secure the existence of our race and a future for white children.” The slogan was coined by David Lane, the leader of racist terrorists from the American group The Order. It was inspired by an excerpt, i.e. Part I, Chapter VIII of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. In turn, the number 88 means the Hitler’s greeting “Heil Hitler”, from the eighth position of the letter H in the alphabet). “C18” is the abbreviation for Combat 18, a neo-Nazi terrorist organisation. The number 18 is Hitler’s encrypted initials: the first and eighth letters of the alphabet.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

5.6       Vandalism of vegan restaurants, criminal threats – 15/16 March 2019, Gdansk

The facades of three vegetarian restaurants were destroyed and the windows were covered with posters reading “Never enough of racism and fascism, greetings from the Stormtroopers” and with insulting threats against the owners of the premises. In addition, the perpetrators painted the windows and walls with spray paint and placed stickers reading “White power”. Restaurant employees recalled that a year before, they were also attacked. The windows and facades of the restaurant had been spray painted with similar content and threats. The police and police technicians investigated the case.

The current status of the case: The perpetrators – three men and a woman – were previously known to the police, so they were quickly detained. The woman and one of the men faced charges of “threats of unlawful bodily harm and deprivation of life against a group of people due to national, racial, ethnic origin and political affiliation, public promotion of the fascist system and incitement to hatred based on national, ethnic and racial differences”. They face up to five years in prison. The remaining perpetrators, on the other hand, may be sentenced to two years in prison on the charges of “possessing materials whose contents promote the fascist system and inciting hatred on the grounds of national, ethnic and racial differences”, as during a search of the vandals’ apartments, police officers found blouses, T-shirts, recordings and books inciting hatred.

5.7       Public praise of racial segregation – 19 May 2019, Złotoryja

A member of the political group “Freedom” from Złotoryja posted a photo of a Star of David armband with an annotation on Facebook: “And was there anything wrong with the fact that you knew who you were dealing with?” and he wrote in his comment “We are nationalists, every Pole should know whether he is dealing with a Pole”. The Centre for the Monitoring of Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour submitted a criminal complaint. The District Prosecutor’s Office in Legnica decided that the author of the published content praised racial segregation, thus promoting a fascist system of government, and initiated an investigation.

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

5.8       Beating a man criticising homophobic inscriptions on a wall – 25 July 2019, Wroclaw

Lecturer, journalist and poet Przemysław Witkowski was severely beaten after criticising aloud homophobic slogans painted on a wall, such as “Stop pedophiles from LGBT”, “Destroy Marxists! Be active”, “Autonomous Nationalists”. Before attacking the man, the aggressor made sure that the man did not like the inscriptions on the wall, and then he started beating him, breaking his nose and cheekbones. He was arrested for two months and faced two charges: causing damage to an individual’s health and misdemeanour menacing due to political affiliation.

Current status of the case: In November 2019, Maciej K. was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and five thousand zlotys of compensation to the victim.

5.9       Propagation of Fascism, incitement to hatred – 9 November 2019, Wrocław

A former Catholic priest, activist and right-wing publicist Jacek Międlar published an article on his online portal entitled “Poland in the shade of Jewry. About mass betrayal and sabotage of the reborn State, or hidden truth for the centenary of regaining independence“, in which he incited hatred against national and religious differences. “The enemies of Poland will not disappear by themselves, will not dissolve in the air, rather, like a disease – they will multiply infinitely until they kill their victim, unless they are stopped beforehand. The final solution is, therefore, inevitable, but it will not be easy – the enemies of our Fatherland will hide behind hordes of Negroes, bandits, Jewish terrorists, German armed formations brought in to help and, of course, renegades from the Polish police (those who beat people with batons at the Independence Marches and shock their handcuffed victims to death with Taser guns – as was the case with Igor Stachowiak from Wroclaw), because for them, treason has no limits” – the article reads. “Let us arm ourselves, as much as we can, with firearms, organise in squads and commandos, recognise and inventory our local Fifth Column, let’s support, train ourselves in combat, read and learn let us be fearless, ruthless and ready to sacrifice. Without it, we have already lost”. The same month, the Wrocław Commune filed a report of a crime with the prosecutor’s office.

Current status of the case: On 13 December, Międlar was detained by the Internal Security Agency, questioned and then released. He faced charges of public incitement to hatred based on national and religious differences and was placed under house arrest. He is facing up to two years in prison.

5.10     Anti-Semitic slogans and riots at the national march – 11 November 2019, Wrocław

The so-called “March of Poles” was dissolved by city authorities after attendees started chanting anti-Semitic slogans during the event. Some of the participants chanted “once with a sickle, once with a hammer, [let’s kill] the red rabble”, “God, honour and homeland”, “honour and glory to the heroes”, “here is Poland, not Polin”, and the organiser of the march, Jacek Międlar, shouted about “ungrateful and cowardly Jews”. The participants of the congregation also fired flares in the direction of the police. After several warnings, the services decided to dissolve the march. The participants were still aggressive. Bottles, stones and flares were thrown towards police and others. The police arrested 14 people, 11 of whom faced charges. Images of other suspects have been published online along with a request for help in identification.

Current status of the case: The investigation is underway, the police have yet to find all the suspects.

5.11     Neo-Nazis’ attack on people giving away food to the homeless – 22 December 2019, Warsaw

Near the Warsaw underground, a group of young men attacked* the Food Not Bombs organisation, which was distributing meals to the homeless. The recording, which appeared on the Internet, shows how neo-Nazis tear down the organisation’s poster and start a brawl with the volunteers. “The boys aggressively said that we help deadbeats and losers and that they love war and Hitler” the activists reported. They and random passers-by (including the author of the recording) were jerked, called names and blinded with gas. On the same day, the policemen arrested the first perpetrator of the attack. The 16-year-old faced four charges: propagation of the fascist state system, causing damage to property, theft of a banner and violation of bodily integrity. After the FNB organisation published the name of a different attacker, he replied two days later saying that he did not attack them for giving out meals to the homeless, but for being “anti-fascist scum and junkies”. “If anyone wants a picture of anti-fascist trash or information about it, I invite you to have a private conversation with me.” he offered. The comment ended with a quote from Ian Stuart, a British musician famous for his neo-Nazi views: “Remember the places, the faces of traitors, they will all pay for their crimes”. He was arrested a few hours later. He faced a total of seven charges, including, among others, public promotion of the fascist system, violation of bodily integrity, insulting and forcing victims of violence to behave in a certain way. Shortly afterwards, the last aggressor was arrested and also faced charges.

*A similar incident took place on 5 March 2019 in Wałbrzych, where stones and bottles were thrown at volunteers

Current status of the case: UNKNOWN

6. Politically motivated crimes

After gaining power in 2015, Law and Justice (PiS) built a network of propaganda institutions which use a language of hatred of an intensity unknown in Poland after 1989. Its aim is to “disgust, dehumanise and, as a consequence, gain social consent for the final destruction not only of the political opposition to the Law and Justice party, but also of circles opposed to the authorities or even those uncontrolled by the authorities and perceived as ideologically hostile, such as the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation”. According to publicists and opposition politicians, the public media have become a tool of political campaigning and party propaganda.

In 2017, a team of media experts from the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Kraków, published a report, commissioned by the KRRiT (the National Broadcasting Council), which shows that those who accused the public media, which are in the hands of the Law and Justice party, of a “lack of pluralism and impartiality”, were right. The report speaks about “the crushing advantage of one political option – the ruling party (Law and Justice)”, about the implementation of programmes based on a predetermined thesis, about the lack of objectivity on the part of journalists and failure to separate information from opinions and comments. The report states that “Teleexpress” creates “the impression that Poland is a monopartisan country” and “Wiadomości” is accused of “the presence of propaganda materials – praising the successes of the government”. Due to this crushing criticism, the KRRiT did not publish the report.

Following the assassination of Paweł Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdańsk on 13 January 2019, the Presidents of five Polish cities requested that the Media Ethics Council analyse TVP’s materials regarding him. Local government officials wanted the Media Ethics Council to verify the publications from the past three years. The Council stated that the authors of these publications manipulate facts, suggestions and assumptions in order to present Paweł Adamowicz as an untrustworthy person. (…) He was an object of slander but had no right to defend himself. It showed that, in particular, TVP’s “Wiadomości” broke five of the seven principles of the Media Ethics Charter: truth, objectivity, separating information from commentary, respect and tolerance, priority of the viewer’s good. According to Wiesław Baryła, PhD, a social psychologist from the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, “Polish Television is engaged in propaganda that serves to destroy opponents of the ruling party”.

Selected cases:

6.1     Murder of Gdańsk’s mayor at a charity event – 13 January 2019, Gdańsk

The mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, was stabbed three times by a 27-year-old assailant. The blows hit the heart and abdomen, damaging many internal organs. The assailant was a recidivist, Stefan W., a citizen of Gdańsk, previously punished for offences such as robbery. Immediately after the assassination, the perpetrator shouted political slogans against the judicial authorities and the party of which his victim was a member. The next day, Adamowicz died.

Current status of the case: Stefan W. did not confess to the murder of Paweł Adamowicz. He hasn’t been convicted to this day – experts are still establishing whether he was sane. In Poland, the debate about hate speech spread by pro-government media reignited. The public television company announced lawsuits and criminal cases for suggesting that its programmes may have contributed to the tragic death of the mayor of Gdańsk. However, the courts have dismissed the cases or passed sentences unfavourable to TVP.

6.2     Praising the murder of Adamowicz – January 2019

Many comments appeared on the web, with their authors praising the murder of the Mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz. For example, on 17 January, one of the residents of Łódź published a video on YouTube, in which he praised the murder of Paweł Adamowicz and stated that “they could have stabbed him with 20, 50 or 100 knives, the whole stage and, additionally, Owsiak” [eds. the founder of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, the biggest, non-governmental, non-profit, charity organization in Poland]. During his arrest by the police, the man was wearing a sweatshirt with the inscription “God sent us down to earth to sow terror and destruction”. He faced charges of publicly praising the crime. Another hateful person, a 15-year-old boy from Tychy, wrote that it was the Mayor of Gdańsk who deserved to die, and his executioner is being held in detention innocently. A 34-year-old inhabitant of Knurów vulgarly mocked the tragic death of the mayor of Gdańsk. Also, a 61-year-old woman from Zabrze confessed to praising the murder of Adamowicz.

Current status of the case: Many hateful persons were successfully detained, and they faced charges. Some of them have already been punished.

6.3     Incitement to assassinate mayors of other cities or opposition politicians – January 2019

Following the tragic death of the Mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, many comments called for crimes or violence against politicians, including Mayors of several cities who aren’t linked to the ruling party (including the Mayors of Warsaw, Poznań, Wrocław, Radom, Szczecin and Olsztyn). The authors of the threats included a 41-year-old man from Nysa, who posted comments threatening people due to their political affiliation, including politicians of the Civic Platform. In addition to threats posted on the Internet, politicians were also threatened by letter. A 28-year-old from Krakow sent the same threatening letter to representatives of several local governments. It read, in part: “Let’s play a game. You have seven days to announce your resignation. Otherwise, this is the last time you see your family. (…) What do you choose? Life or death?” Each envelope contained a machine gun shell and a powder-free cartridge and photos of several other city mayors. One of the photographs depicted the assassinated Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz. According to the police, the letters were sent to the Mayors of Kielce, Koszalin, Kraków, Lublin, Łódź, Rzeszów, Szczecin and Toruń. Former President Lech Wałęsa reported on Twitter that he had received a package, too.

Current status of the case: As in the case of praising the murder of Paweł Adamowicz, many of the authors of the threats were successfully detained and faced charges.

6.4     Misdemeanour menacing against the current mayor of Gdańsk – January-December 2019

Aleksandra Dulkiewicz has been governing Gdańsk since the day after Paweł Adamowicz’s murder. First as the first deputy, then as a commissioner, and since March 2019, as the Mayor of the city. As early as in January, she got the first signals that the wave of hatred would not end. A package with white powder was sent to the town hall, and so the whole building had to be evacuated. The following months brought other hateful actions – Dulkiewicz received threats every few days via e-mail, Messenger, Twitter or traditional post. One of the e-mails addressed to the current mayor of the city contained a picture of Dulkiewicz in an SS helmet. The prosecutor’s office received a report of a crime of promoting the fascist system and insulting a public officer. According to journalists’ findings, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz has received more messages with threats and insults than her predecessor, Paweł Adamowicz. Some of the messages included quoted statements which can be heard on TVP and read in pro-government newspaper articles.

Current status of the case: Some of the perpetrators have been arrested and faced charges, but the influx of threats has continued to this day. In the case of an e-mail message with a photo of the Mayor of Gdansk in an SS helmet, the prosecutor’s office refused to initiate an investigation ex officio. Piotr Adamowicz, the brother of the murdered Paweł Adamowicz, accused the law enforcement authorities of being passive in the case of threats received by Aleksandra Dulkiewicz since the day she took office.