Poland commemorates victims of WWII genocide – Opinion
Wed, July 14, 2021
The article “Israel: Confronting Central European Revisionism” by James M. Dorsey in Jakarta Post July 9, 2021 contained numerous inaccuracies about Poland’s efforts to commemorate the victims of the genocide committed by the German occupiers on its territory during World War II.
It also contained many unproven simplifications and generalizations on the recent amendment to the Law on the Code of Administrative Procedure, adopted on June 24 by the Polish Sejm (lower house of Parliament).
Poland attaches great importance to the commemoration of the victims of the genocide committed by the German occupiers on its territory during the Second World War. Many initiatives are taken and significant resources are allocated to commemorate Jewish cultural heritage, the Holocaust and its victims.
Every year Poland provides substantial funds to support victims of war and repression, for example in the form of social benefits. Reliable knowledge and awareness of the Holocaust is disseminated through education and research activities and museum initiatives. Poland also provides comprehensive support for former German Nazi concentration camps, German Nazi death camps, cemeteries and other places commemorating victims of repression.
The Polish government was disappointed by the reaction of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to the proposed amendment to the Polish Code of Administrative Procedure. This law does not discriminate against any particular person or group, and is not intended to antagonize any party, including Israel or the Jewish Diaspora. Its aim is to restore the law’s conformity with the Polish Constitution and to protect the principle of legal certainty, a principle which is necessary in any rule of law.
The law amending the Law – Code of Administrative Procedure results from the obligation to implement the judgment of the Constitutional Court of 12 May 2015 on the Polish legal system. The court ruled that the situation in which no time limit applies to the possibility of declaring invalid administrative decisions rendered in flagrant violation of the law is contrary to the principle of a democratic rule of law.
The adoption of the law by the Sejm to implement the court’s decision is a legal consequence of the judgment and a duty of the authorities. The adopted act provides for a period of 30 years during which an administrative decision can be declared invalid because it was rendered in flagrant violation of the law.
This amendment to the law is based on the need to ensure citizens’ confidence in the state, to implement the principle of legal certainty and to protect public order. The current legal situation allows administrative decisions to be declared invalid within an indefinite period on the grounds that they were adopted without any legal basis or in flagrant violation of the law.
As a result, any person, Polish citizen or foreigner, who considered himself violated in his rights had, for a long time, the possibility of contesting the decisions concerning him. However, it has also led to dire situations where tens of thousands of people have been deprived of property their entire lives and driven from apartments that have been inhabited by their families for generations.
Often these operations have been carried out criminally, using false documents or bribery. It has happened that the courts have considered living people who, at the time of judgment, would have been 130 years old – only for the purpose of transferring real estate to the alleged representatives of these people.
The Polish Constitutional Court ruled that such a situation was incompatible with the Constitution and that a deadline should be set for declaring the invalidity of administrative decisions. Stabilizing the facts after a specified period is in the interest of public order, enhances legal certainty and preserves an individual’s confidence in the state and its laws. The invalidity of a decision is an exception to the principle of respecting the stability of a final administrative decision and cannot be unlimited in time. Such a situation creates uncertainty as to the existing legal relationship and creates the impression that a decision is provisional.
The amended provisions will only apply to administrative procedures, including reprivatization procedures. Persons with rights will always be able to assert their rights, including in the context of civil proceedings, to obtain compensation in the event of illegal seizure of property. Polish law has offered such a possibility for a long time and nothing will change in this regard.
The amendment will apply exclusively to administrative proceedings in which action has been taken to challenge administrative decisions made in the distant past. The amended provisions will apply regardless of the nationality or origin of the parties. They are therefore non-discriminatory.
Polish law allows all entitled persons, regardless of nationality or origin, including foreigners, to assert their property rights lost due to post-war nationalization.
I firmly believe that an evidence-based, fair and impartial public debate is much needed at this time regarding all aspects of historical and present relations between nations.
Poland, as a country that lost 6 million citizens in WWII killed by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, is ready to continue the discussion on all aspects of the German occupation and Soviet Union of Polish territory. But this discussion needs to be fair and evidence-based. This is the only way to understand the past and build a better future.
The writer is Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Indonesia.