Memory Wars: The Polish-Ukrainian Battle about History

Recent events show that the conflict between Ukraine and Poland over  the interpretation of controversial historical events of World War II has reached a point to be classified as ‘memory war’. These political initiatives from the both sides have destroyed the first achievements of the Ukrainian-Polish dialogue on mutual repentance, forgiveness and commemoration of the innocent victims killed during the conflict in 1940s.

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Reviewing the Holocaust Bill: The Polish President and the Constitutional Tribunal

President Duda decided to sign off the controversial law allowing to punish those who publicly accuse the Polish nation and the Polish state of taking part in the Holocaust and in any war crimes. The law will now come into force – a circumstance which is unlikely to calm the international discussion it has generated. Having decided to sign the law, the President announced that he will file a motion to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to check its constitutionality. If the president is aware that the law may be unconstitutional and has at his disposal legal tools to check it yet allows it to come into force, he can be accused of constitutional recklessness.

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Calling Murders by Their Names as Criminal Offence – a Risk of Statutory Negationism in Poland

On the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27th of January, the Polish Sejm approved a law on the defamation of the Polish State and Nation, causing extremely harsh reactions from Israel, Holocaust survivors and international organizations. While the attempt to ban the use of the word “Polish concentration camp” seems fully justified, the scope of the law goes way beyond that and is a threat to the freedom of speech and academic research.

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Remembering as Pacting between Past, Present and Future

The past has not been spared from the “politics of resentment” engulfing Poland for the last two years. The peculiar (mis)understanding and political instrumentalization of history by Polish rulers provide an important cautionary tale against one-sided partisan historical debate as it impacts how we remember the past and see ourselves today.

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The Right to the Truth for the Families of Victims of the Katyń Massacre

Recently, Uladzislau Belavusau with his post about a de-communization law in Poland launched a joint ASSER-Verfassungsblog symposium on what he has coined “mnemonic constitutionalism”. Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias followed up on this topic by mapping the landscape of various memory laws in the recent years and unfolding the ongoing challenges to fundamental rights, joined by Anna Wójcik with an exploration of how memory laws affect state security. With this contribution, I would like to discuss how the European Court of Human Rights has failed to offer redress to the families of the victims of the Katyń massacres seeking to receive information about their loved ones. I will compare the Polish case-study with the Spanish and South-American practice concerning the “right to the truth”, thus adding this concept to the array of topics discussed under the umbrella of “memory laws” and mnemonic constitutionalism.

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Memory Laws and Security

Recently, Uladzislau Belavusau with his post about a de-communization law in Poland launched a joint ASSER-Verfassungsblog symposium on what he has coined “mnemonic constitutionalism”. Aleksandra Gliszczynska-Grabias followed up on this topic by mapping the landscape of various memory laws in the recent years and unfolding the ongoing challenges to fundamental rights. With this essay, I would like to highlight another aspect of mnemonic constitutionalism, affecting various understandings of security.

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The Commission takes a step back in the fight for the Rule of Law

The European Commission has filed a complaint against Poland with the Court of Justice of the European Union based on Article 258 TFEU, in connection with the Polish Act on the Common Courts System. Fines may be charged on Poland as a result of the case, but the Commission has probably quietly withdrawn some of its charges, apparently opting for the somewhat modified “Hungarian scenario”. The impact of this new approach on the reversibility of the changes introduced to the Polish judiciary will be very limited.

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„A Good Constitution” and the Habits of Heart

Unless we want to complete an obituary for the rule of law in 2018, the challenge should be clear. While improving constitutional safeguards against the excesses of any majority is of utmost importance, it is insufficient. What is needed this time is moving beyond text text and on to building the context in which a constitution will prosper.

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