Top Polish Legal Official: New 'Holocaust Bill' Is Unconstitutional

Poland's deputy chief prosecutor says clause punishing those outside of Poland may have 'opposite results'

Visitor explore a new exhibition devoted to an anti-Semitic campaign in Poland in 1968 that was the main reaction of the communist regime in power at the time to a student rebellion in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, March 9, 2018. The exhibition is titled "Estranged: March '68 and its Aftermath" and is on display at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews through Sept. 24.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Czarek Sokolowski/AP

Poland's deputy chief prosecutor Robert Hernand said Thursday that the country's controversial Holocaust bill includes articles that are unconstitutional. The unusual statement may hint at the fate of the legislation, which is still awaiting final approval from Poland's Constitutional Court, which must determine if the law is in fact unconstitutional.

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In the statement, published on the Polish court's website, Hernand claimed that the clause in the bill which calls to punish "crimes" committed outside of Poland is problematic. "It may bring about results opposite from those intended by the law and thus harm the Polish state's authority, which will be unable to enforce the law it itself legislated," he said, adding the clause was "nonfunctional."

The comment most likely alludes to a situation in which Poland initiates criminal proceedings against foreigners, such as Israelis or American Jews who claim "the Polish people were involved in Nazi crimes" – a phrase which could lead to a prison sentence, according to the bill. 

The statement, coming from within the Polish court, is puzzling, as the law was intended to defend Poland's reputation mainly from statements made abroad. That is why the law was billed, among other reasons, as addressing phrases like "Polish death camps," which are predominantly used in English.

Meanwhile, Poland's chief prosecutor and justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, whose office signed off on the statement, supported the legislation and also voiced his support for its inclusion of offenses made internationally.

The Polish President, Andrzej Duda, who has also signed off on the law – which has inspired widespread objections – ordered its referral to the Polish Constitutional Court,  which will have to determine if it infringes on the right of free speech.