Calls for the death penalty in Poland

25-08-2006

Poland continues to cause anger and some amazement in the European Union. The latest stir is over capital punishment - long banished from the EU. The far-right League of Polish Families is calling for its reinstatement and President Lech Kaczynski has made comments supporting capital punishment in certain cases. Agnieszka Bielawska has the details:

The idea is to spread the campaign on a wider European scale in an attempt to reintroduce capital punishment so that judges would have it available in extreme cases such as murderers of children. Maciej Giertych, the founder of the League of Polish Families (LPF):

"We have decided to start with the punishment with death penalty of murderers of children in connection with sexual offences. The public is afraid of such criminals after they are released from prison."

There is a general feeling that elimination of capital punishment has made criminals feel safe and they are not afraid of the consequences. Generally the public is very much in support of the death penalty, it is the politicians and other bodies, theses forces oppose. I am quite sure that it will be difficult to reintroduce death penalty but someone has to start work in this direction.

Leader of the opposition centrist Civic Platform warns against such ideas. Donald Tusk says it may have fatal consequences for Poland on the European arena.

"Everyone would be willing to do away with a freak who kills children but on one condition, everyone has to be aware of the repercussions of the reinstatement of capital punishment in Poland. One of the most important for the millions of Poles would be the weakening of this country's position in the EU or even the exclusion from the most vital membership rights."

The European Union has rebuked the initiative saying death penalty is not compatible with European values. But is it really a European topic wonders Oskar Chomicki from the Poland in Europe Foundation. He is rather prone to consider it an initiative aimed locally, since the capital punishment has no chance of being restored in the present political situation in Europe.

"As long as Poland is a member of the EU capital punishment is excluded from all codes. The League of Polish Families has one thing in mind to attack the public opinion with capital punishment, the majority is in favour of it, before the local elections. The League of Polish Families wants to be recognized as a separate political entity versus the ruling Law and Justice. It is a local issue but it also has some international repercussions."

The League of Polish Families distances itself from joint European values, pointing rather to the teachings of the Catholic Church to which the party is strongly attached. Father Piotr Mazurkiewicz from the Catholic University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Warsaw argues that such an idea runs in a different direct than the present values of the Catholic Church.

There is a traditional teaching of the church in which the capital punishment is part. The teaching has been altered by John Paul II and now the Catholic Church supports the forces aiming to eliminate capital punishment. So we can say this initiative is going the opposite way to the teachings of the church. This kind of initiatives has political reasons - it is not going from religious motives or ethical ones but from political ones.

The LPF wants to stage a referendum, together with the local elections, in which Poles would have to answer whether they support the idea of capital punishment for paedophile murderers and whether they consider that paedophilia is a crime.

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