Must Read: The ABA's Center for Human Rights Latest TrialWatch Observation Report on the Criminal Proceedings Against Three LGBT Activists in Poland

Podlesna, Prus, and Gzyra-Iskandar were accused of placing posters and stickers depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo in public spaces. | Photo Credit: Silar, 2019, via Wikimedia Commons (Source).

This week, the American Bar Association's Center for Human Rights (ABA CHR) released the Trial Observation Report: Poland vs. Elzbieta Podlesna, Anna Prus, and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar, which addresses the criminal proceedings against these three LGBT activists in Poland. ABA CHR is a primary implementing partner in TrialWatch, meaning that it selects trials for monitoring, conducts observations, produces reports on any violations observed, and undertakes follow-up advocacy.

From January to March 2021, ABA CHR monitored the trial of human rights defenders Elzbieta Podlesna, Anna Prus, and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar as part of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s Trial Watch initiative. The three accused were charged with “offend[ing] the religious feelings of other persons by publicly insulting an object of religious worship, or a place designated for public religious ceremonies” under Article 196 of Poland’s Criminal Code: specifically, they were accused of placing posters and stickers depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo, a symbol of LGBTIQ+ acceptance, in public spaces in the town of Plock. Although the accused were acquitted by the District Court of Plock, their prosecution constituted a severe violation of their rights to freedom of expression and to freedom from discrimination. These rights are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which Poland acceded to in 1977 and 1993, respectively. With prosecution representatives comparing the rainbow flag to the swastika, condemning the “homolobby,” and deeming homosexuality an abomination, it was clear that Article 196 was but a vehicle to pummel the LGBTIQ+ community.

Read an op-ed by the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) on the ABA observation and how the trial demonstrates the importance of judicial independence in Poland.

Read the CFJ's statement on the report, as well as a short video compilation about the issues raised.


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