Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Real Violation of National Sovereignty

"Citizens’ Platform and its political base perfectly understand that a Poland that honours the memory of Lech Kaczyński will not be the Poland that it wants (….) Just as Piłsudski could not be a symbol of the Polish Peoples’ Republic, so Lech Kaczyński (…) cannot be a symbol of the Russian-German condominium in Poland’

This quote is just one example of the change in political rhetoric by the leader of the Law and Justice party (PiS) Jaroslaw Kaczyński. In recent days Kaczyński has also claimed that the PM Donald Tusk and a number of PO politicians are morally responsible for the Smoleńsk tragedy. Although he has stopped short of openly proclaiming that the aircrash was a deliberate attack, he has stated that it was a consequence of political games between the Polish government and Moscow.

Kaczyński is moving PiS towards being a single issue party. Smoleńsk not only now defines the party’s domestic policy but also its stance on international matters. This will undoubtedly lead PiS down a political cul-de-sac and reduce its support to a small minority of society. Nevertheless they can cause a lot of political damage along the way and further distract attention away from the real issues facing Poland. PiS are currently using the historical experiences of foreign occupation and partition to raise fears in society. However, at the same time, they are ignoring the real issues that have violated Poland's standing as a soverign state. Most immediately this concerns the accusations, revealled by the Associated Press agency last week, that torture was carried out in secret CIA prisons in Poland .

The allegations that Poland hosted CIA prisons have been circulating since 2005. In 2006 the Polish government subsequently claimed that these accusations were unfounded. However, in 2007 Poland was included in a European Parliament report, stating that there were secret CIA prisons in the country between 2002 and 2005. However, according to the Helskinki Federation for Human Rights, this is the first time that the CIA has openly admitted that there were both prisons in Poland and that torture was carried out in them.

Despite such allegations the Polish political elite has closed in on itself and denied the claims. The problem is that all the major Polish political parties supported Poland’s participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, these wars were launched when the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) held both governmental and presidential power. Matters are further clouded by claims that the late President Lech Kaczyński protected his predecessor – Aleksander Kwaśniewski – from being held responsible for a matter that violates the Polish constitution.

When answering questions about the latest revelations, Kwaśniewski has assured that Poland had ‘nothing to do with them’. He has stated that ‘there were no prisons’ in Poland although even if there were Poland knew nothing about them. Kwasniewski then goes on to claim that ‘the fight against terrorism can also have a brutal character’ and that he does not ‘adopt the view that democracy must disarm itself against terrorism, while the terrorists can do what they want to us . It is a huge dilemna as to how to balance how much freedom and security there is’.

Kwasniewski is both denying and justifying the existence of CIA prisons in Poland. It is essential that there is a full enquiry into the allegations and that politicians such as Kwasniewski (and the ex-PM Leszek Miller) are questioned over the matter. For the new leadership of the SLD – around Grzegorz Napieralski – this will also be a test as to whether they are serious about building an authentic left in Poland. Just as the British Labour Party has to cleanse itself of the Blair era in order to rebuild its trust in society, so the Polish left will have to do the same.

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