There were complaints from Muslim and Jewish communities that the law requiring the stunning of animals before slaughter in effect prohibited halal and kosher slaughter and, in principle, infringed upon constitutional and statutory provisions on religious liberty. There were instances where local prosecutors failed to pursue cases involving anti-Semitic acts.
Despite the Constitutional Court’s stipulation that domestic legislation was needed to regulate the issue of religious slaughter, the government’s efforts to enact a law to do so were unsuccessful. In the meantime, prosecutors did not enforce the prohibition on halal and kosher slaughter. On August 15, President Komorowski met with the chief rabbi and chief mufti of Poland to discuss the concerns of the two groups over the prohibition on religious slaughter. Jewish and Muslim leaders also met repeatedly with the minister of administration and digitalization, whose ministry is responsible for issues affecting religious, national, and ethnic minorities.
On August 30, the Union of Jewish Communities filed a motion with the Constitutional Court to verify the conformity of the animal rights legislation with the provisions in the Polish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that guarantee freedom of religion. The Muslim community’s legal counsel and some other legal experts maintained religious slaughter was legal based on their interpretation of a 2009 European Union regulation on protection of animals, which allows for religious slaughter. On November 4, during his official visit to Israel, President Komorowski expressed hope the Constitutional Court’s verdict would resolve the issue in such a way that no one in the country felt limited in exercising his or her religious rights.
On October 18, three animal rights groups filed complaints at a prosecutor’s office stating Chief Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz had broken the law when he performed halal slaughter to mark the start of Eid al-Adha October 15. In public statements, Miskiewicz admitted to carrying out the religious slaughter, which he said “took place in accordance with the Islamic faith, the constitution, the state law regarding the Muslim Religious Association, and the law on national and ethnic minorities.” On November 18, the Sokolka district prosecutor announced he would not open an investigation due to the lack of an offense. The prosecutor’s office referred to the November 2012 Constitutional Court verdict, indicating in the absence of a domestic law, international regulations applied, which meant the 2009 EU regulation on protection of animals that allowed religious slaughter. The prosecutor’s office also noted the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom to religious practices. On December 2, animal rights activists appealed the prosecutor’s decision. At year’s end the Sokolka local court had not ruled on the appeal.
In November the Constitutional Court agreed to review an appeal of the prohibition on religious slaughter. As of December 31, the court had not issued a decision.
Some government practices continued to reflect the dominant role of the Catholic Church. Crucifixes were displayed in both the upper and lower houses of parliament, as well as in many other public buildings, including public school classrooms. On November 26, the Warsaw appeals court reviewed the appeal of a group of Sejm deputies from the Your Movement (Twoj Ruch) party, who demanded removal of the crucifix from the Sejm plenary hall. On December 9, the Warsaw appeals court ruled the crucifix could remain in the plenary hall.
By the end of November, the property commissions had resolved approximately 6,500 of just over 10,500 communal property claims. Because the government had transferred a number of communal properties to private owners following World War II, it did not resolve many controversial and complicated cases. The Jewish community continued to report a slow pace of Jewish communal property restitution.
Following dissolution of the Catholic property restitution commission in 2011 by mutual agreement between the government and the Catholic Church, the remaining Catholic claims were transferred to the court system. At the time of its dissolution, the commission had partially or entirely concluded claims affecting 3,142 properties, while 216 claims were unresolved.
According to the most recent data, the commission handling Jewish communal property claims had partially or entirely concluded 2,397 claims of the 5,554 claims the Jewish community had submitted by its 2002 filing deadline. The commission handling Lutheran property claims had partially or entirely concluded 976 cases of the 1,200 claims filed by its 1996 filing deadline. The commission handling Orthodox Church restitution had partially or entirely concluded 250 of 472 claims filed by 2005, and the property commission for all other denominations had partially or entirely concluded 74 out of 170 claims. The deadline for filing claims was 1998 for all other denominations except the Baptist Church and the Protestant Reformed Church, which could file claims through 2006.
On June 3, the Gdansk local court decided that heavy metal singer Adam Darski was not guilty of offending religious feelings when he destroyed a Bible and called the Roman Catholic Church a “criminal sect” during a 2007 concert. The court argued that Darski had “acted with the possible intention of offending religious feelings, but only with respect to persons who were present in the audience.” Since those who filed the suit did not attend the concert, the court maintained they could not claim to have suffered offense from Darski’s actions.
On August 18, the Constitutional Court agreed to hear an appeal filed by pop star Dorota Rabczewska, who had been fined 5,000 zloty ($1,659) in 2012 for offending the religious feelings of two individuals by stating in a 2011 interview the Bible had been written by someone “drunk on wine and smoking some herbs.”
On July 1, the Bialystok district prosecutor initiated a procedure to dismiss the head of the Bialystok-North local prosecutor’s office. After reviewing almost 30 cases involving xenophobia or racism that occurred in Bialystok between May 20 and June 26, the district prosecutor determined the local prosecutor’s office made mistakes in eight of the cases by discontinuing them or refusing to initiate an investigation. The local prosecutor’s decision not to open an investigation of swastikas painted on electrical transformers met with a strongly negative public reaction. On August 19, the head of the Bialystok-North prosecutor’s office submitted his resignation, which the Prosecutor General accepted September 3.
On November 28, the Warsaw Prosecutor’s office discontinued an investigation into the defamation of Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski due to alleged anti-Semitic comments about his family posted on the internet in 2011. Linguistic experts analyzed 2,500 comments on internet portals, identifying 50 that were considered offensive on the basis of “national or ethnic identity.” Since prosecutors were only able to identify one person from the dozens of potential commentators interviewed, the Prosecutor’s Office determined prosecution was not warranted. In January a Warsaw court ordered the Warsaw district prosecutor’s office to reopen a criminal investigation after the prosecutor’s office had discontinued it in July 2012.
On April 17, Lodz local prosecutors discontinued an investigation into an event organized by LKS Lodz soccer fans in February. One of the attractions at the event had been called “three throws at a Jew,” in which people threw ninja blades at a cardboard figure dressed in the uniform of a player from the rival RTS Widzew Lodz soccer team. Prosecutors decided the activity had not broken any laws. The municipality of Lodz publicly announced, however, it would never again rent a public space for “this type of event” due to “the anti-Semitic and offensive behavior” of the soccer fans. The LKS Lodz soccer club issued a statement criticizing the fans’ behavior and maintaining the club had nothing to do with the event.
On October 2, the Poznan local prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation into an alleged anti-Semitic incident that took place during a professional soccer match September 29. A group of Lech Poznan soccer fans shouted anti-Semitic slogans against the RTS Widzew Lodz soccer team and its fans, including “Auschwitz is your home, off with Jews, RTS [Widzew] to the gas [chambers].” On December 30, the prosecutor’s office discontinued the investigation, asserting that, although the slogans could be construed as negative if addressed to persons of Jewish origin, they were shouted during a “sports event” and not “a public assembly or other forum of presentation of opinions on social issues.” The prosecutor’s spokesperson stated that since the slogans were addressed exclusively to the opponent’s players and fans and not against Jews, they did not manifest hatred against a national or religious group.
On October 14, the Warsaw local court sentenced 17 soccer fans for shouting anti-Semitic slogans during a 2011 soccer match between two Polish clubs. The verdict ordered the fans to perform community service, make financial contributions to the Union of Jewish Communities, and watch a movie about an anti-Semitic soccer fan who discovers his Jewish roots.
Efforts during the year to highlight Jewish identity and history in the country included the opening of a Museum of the History of Polish Jews in April and the naming of a walkway in Warsaw for Irena Sendler, who was credited with saving 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust. The government and the city of Warsaw continued to provide funds for the operating budget of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.