Poland: President Kaczynski Urged to Support and Protect Gay Pride Marchers in Krakow on April 28

European Parliament call to end homophobia cited in letter to Polish president asking him to address threats of violence from group with history of attacking gays and lesbians.

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Geoffrey Knox, 212-229-0540

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today asked the president of Poland to publicly support the right of Poland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens to march peacefully and with full police protection on April 28th in Kraków as part of the third annual March of Tolerance. In a letter sent to President Lech Kaczynski, IGLHRC stated:

We ask that you, as the President of Poland, stand with the European Parliament in calling for an end to homophobia. That you lead your country in abiding by the human rights standards set forth internationally and within Europe. That you support the equal treatment of all citizens and their right to political expression that lies at the heart of democracy. And, that you do all in your power to ensure the safety of those marching this week in the Kraków March of Tolerance.

IGLHRC appealed to Kaczynski to not only allow such marches in Kraków and elsewhere in Poland to go forward this year without disruption from the state, but also asked him to “publicly command that police forces protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marchers and their supporters who participate.” In 2004, at the Kraków March for Tolerance, the violent nationalist group, the All Polish Youth, physically attacked marchers. In 2005, Kaczynski was Mayor of Warszawa and imposed a ban on that city’s gay pride march, Parada Równo¦ci. IGLHRC appealed to him to change his course, which he refused to do and counter demonstrators attempted to physically harm LGBT marchers who defied Kaczynski’s ban. According to the Warsaw Lambda Association and Campaign Against Homophobia the number of incidents of physical and psychological violence were alarmingly high in 2005.

IGLHRC has been working closely with the Polish LGBT group, Campaign Against Homophobia, as it prepares for the March of Tolerance and the group has expressed fear for the safety of marchers this year in Kraków.

IGLHRC states in its letter to President Kaczynski that he is mandated to protect the marchers by the full range of international human rights treaties ratified by Poland, including Poland’s obligations as a member of the European Union. Kaczynski’s decision to ban the gay pride march last year spawned widespread concern throughout the international community in the United States and Europe. Concern in Europe was so great that the European Parliament passed a resolution on January 18, 2006 condemning homophobia. The Parliament explicitly cited the “banning of gay pride or equality marches” as one of the “worrying events” that prompted its resolution.

Full text of IGLHRC's Letter to the President of the Republic of Poland:

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

President of the Republic of Poland
Lech Kaczynski
fax: +48 22 6952238
e-mail: listy@prezydent.pl

Dear President Kaczynski,

I write to you on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to ask that you publicly support the right of Poland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens to march peacefully and with full police protection on April 28th 2006 in Kraków as part of the third annual March of Tolerance.

As President of Poland, your obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all citizens of Poland is mandated by the full range of international human rights treaties ratified by your country, including Poland’s explicit obligations as a member of the European Union. The concern that leads us to write to you stems from the ban you imposed on the Parada Równo¦ci as Mayor of Warszawa last year. Last year, IGLHRC appealed to you to change your course. This year, in the important role as President of Poland, we again appeal to you to allow this community to exercise their human right to expression and assembly in safety and with your full support as leader of your country.

State interference with pride marches such as the one in Kraków would irrefutably strip people of their rights of free expression, speech and assembly – rights critical to the development of true democracy and essential to the enjoyment of full human rights. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, pride rallies – which have taken place around the globe for decades - are essential components of freedom. They help to break the silence surrounding the discrimination and brutality often faced by this community. They provide a public means for them to stake their claim to the rights and privileges entitled to all citizens. And, most importantly, they allow them as citizens to engage in the democratic process of social and legal change.

Your decision to ban the march in Warszawa last year spawned widespread concern throughout the international community in the United States and Europe. In fact, concern in Europe was so great that the European Parliament itself passed a resolution on January 18th 2006, condemning homophobia. The Parliament explicitly cited the “banning of gay pride or equality marches” as one of the “worrying events” that prompted its resolution.

We appeal to you to not only allow such marches in Kraków and elsewhere to go forward without disruption from the state, but to publicly command that police forces protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marchers and their supporters who participate. In 2004 at the Kraków March for Tolerance, the violent nationalist group, the All Polish Youth, physically attacked march participants. In 2005 similar attacks happened, under your mayorship in Warszawa, when counter demonstrators attempted to physically harm LGBT marchers who defied your ban. It was widely reported that as Mayor you not only failed to call for the protection of the marchers, but that you in fact condemned the police for protecting the marchers. According to the Warsaw Lambda Association and Campaign Against Homophobia the number of incidents of physical and psychological violence were alarmingly high.

We ask that you, as the President of Poland, stand with the European Parliament in calling for an end to homophobia. That you lead your country in abiding by the human rights standards set forth internationally and within Europe. That you support the equal treatment of all citizens and their right to political expression that lies at the heart of democracy. And, that you do all in your power to ensure the safety of those marching this week in the Kraków March of Tolerance.

Sincerely,

Paula L. Ettelbrick
Paula Ettelbrick
Executive Director

Faxed to:

The President of the Republic of Poland
Lech Kaczynski
ul. Wiejska 10
00-902 Warszawa, Poland
listy@prezydent.pl
fax. +48 22 6952238
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland
Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz
Al. Ujazdowskie 1/3
00-583 Warszawa, Poland
cirinfo@kprm.gov.pl
fax +48 22 6252637
The Mayor of the City of Krakow
Jacek Majchrowski
Pl. Wszystkich Swietych 3/4
31-004 Krakow, Poland
Jacek.Majchrowski@um.krakow.pl
fax +48 12 6161315

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The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is the only human rights organization solely devoted to improving the rights of people around the world who are targeted for imprisonment, abuse or murder because of their sexuality, gender identity or HIV status. IGLHRC addresses human rights violations by partnering with and supporting activists on the ground in countries around the world, by monitoring and documenting abuses, by engaging offending governments, and by educating international human rights officials.