BRUSSELS – The European Commission has said that Poland’s prosecution of a rock group for “blasphemy” is against European values.
It said on Wednesday (31 October) in a written statement for EUobserver that “national blasphemy laws are a matter for the domestic legal order of the member states.
But it added that EU countries must respect international pacts.
It cited the European Convention of Human Rights, a Poland-signatory treaty attached to the Strasbourg-based rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, on freedom of expression.
“This right protects not only information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also those that offend, shock or disturb,” the commission said.
The statement comes amid a row in Poland over a heavy metal band called Behemoth.
Its lead singer, Adam Darski, while on stage in 2007, ripped up a Bible and called the Roman Catholic church a “murderous cult.”
In a case with echoes of Pussy Riot in Russia or Mohammed cartoons in Denmark, the Polish supreme court on Monday said prosecutors can go after Darski on the basis of article 196 of Poland’s penal code on “the crime of offending religious sensibilities.”
In theory, he faces two years in prison. But nobody expects a jail sentence if he loses.
A few points:
1. The EU Commission is, as usual, being disingenuous. All EU countries are required to subscribe to the (non-EU) European Convention of Human Rights.
2. No self-respecting country should pay much attention to what the supranationalist “jurists” of the European Court of Human Rights has to say about its internal affairs.
3. No decent country should have blasphemy laws, particularly blasphemy laws so intrusive that singer cannot rip up his own copy of a book and say a few (admittedly) harsh words about a religious faith.
Poland should scrap this shameful law.
The Guardian has more here:
“We’d been doing that for two years on tour before it happened in Poland,” Behemoth bassist Tomasz Wróblewski told Decibel magazine (via Blabbermouth). “We [were] not offending any particular person. We [were] just offending the religion that we’ve been raised in.”
Despite this intention, Darski was pursued by Polish courts for having offended Catholic fans. After being cleared by judges in 2010 and 2011, the singer/guitarist is again on trial. Officials in Gdansk asked the supreme court how Darski could be “offending religious feelings” if most of Behemoth’s fans expected theatrical sacrilege?
“The crime of offending religious sensibilities is committed not only by he who intends to carry it out, but also by he who is aware that his actions may lead to offence being taken,” the court said.
Ah yes, “offense”. That again.