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Poland mulls face-covering ban

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 20.01.2014 11:51
A draft amendment to the law on public assembly will be addressed by parliament, Wednesday, banning hoods and other face coverings after violence at recent public events in Poland.


The proposals were drawn up by President Komorowski in the wake of rioting and damage to property during an independence day march in Warsaw led by Polish nationalists on 11 November.

The Polish president had initially backed a prohibition on the covering of faces at public assemblies following disorder during the 2011 independence day march.

However, the draft legislation was dropped as it appeared incompatible with a November 2004 ruling by Poland's Constitutional Court, which stated that not every instance in which a person covers their face during a gathering is necessarily a threat to public order.

The president's new proposals specify that the organiser of a public gathering must notify local authorities in advance if some participants intend to cover their faces (for example, people in fancy dress during a fund-raising action).

Only minority liberal party Your Movement has flatly objected to the legislation, with party press spokesman Andrzej Rozenek describing the amendment as “restricting freedom.”

Rozenek has argued that the draft law is “absurd” and “impracticable.”

Chief opposition party Law and Justice (PiS) has not made a final decision yet on how it will vote in parliament on the issue. MP Jaroslaw Zielinski said that on the one hand, “in a normal, democratic country, participants in public gatherings should not hide their faces, as what have they to be afraid of?”

However, he added that those involved in trade unionists' demonstrations might be frightened of revealing their faces, out of concern for job security.

Prime Minister Tusk's centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party has said it would push ahead with the legislation.

MP Tomasz Lenz said a cross-parliamentary committee could work on modifying details, if the president's legislation is not accepted as it stands.

During the 11 November Independence Day march last year, rioters set fire to a security booth outside the Russian embassy. Elsewhere in the capital, a vast art installation in the form of a rainbow was torched. The art-work been criticised by right-wingers as promoting homosexuality.

Meanwhile, clashes with police in Ukraine continue after MPs loyal to President Viktor Yanukovych pushed through more far-reaching legislation on public assemblies. Poland's foreign ministry has itself criticised the legislation.

The new laws include a ban on the unauthorised erection of tents, stages or amplifiers in public places. All of the former have been staples of large public demonstrations in Ukraine, from the Orange Revolution of 2004 to the recent protests against the government's rejection of an association agreement with the EU.

The laws also make it illegal for demonstrations to have more than five vehicles travelling in convoy, and wearing helmets or covering faces is forbidden. (nh/pg)

Source: PAP

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