The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today asked the president of Poland to publicly support the right of Poland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens to march peacefully and with full police protection on April 28th in Kraków as part of the third annual March of Tolerance. In a letter sent to President Lech Kaczynski, IGLHRC stated:

“We ask that you, as the President of Poland, stand with the European Parliament in calling for an end to homophobia. That you lead your country in abiding by the human rights standards set forth internationally and within Europe. That you support the equal treatment of all citizens and their right to political expression that lies at the heart of democracy. And, that you do all in your power to ensure the safety of those marching this week in the Kraków March of Tolerance.”

IGLHRC appealed to Kaczynski to not only allow such marches in Kraków and elsewhere in Poland to go forward this year without disruption from the state, but also asked him to “publicly command that police forces protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender marchers and their supporters who participate.”

In 2004, at the Kraków March for Tolerance, the violent nationalist group, the All Polish Youth, physically attacked marchers. In 2005, Kaczynski was Mayor of Warsaw and imposed a ban on that city’s gay pride march, Parada Równo¦ci. IGLHRC appealed to him to change his course, which he refused to do and counter demonstrators attempted to physically harm LGBT marchers who defied Kaczynski’s ban. According to the Warsaw Lambda Association and Campaign Against Homophobia the number of incidents of physical and psychological violence were alarmingly high in 2005.

IGLHRC has been working closely with the Polish LGBT group, Campaign Against Homophobia, as it prepares for the March of Tolerance and the group has expressed fear for the safety of marchers this year in Kraków.

IGLHRC states in its letter to President Kaczynski that he is mandated to protect the marchers by the full range of international human rights treaties ratified by Poland, including Poland’s obligations as a member of the European Union.

Kaczynski’s decision to ban the gay pride march last year spawned widespread concern throughout the international community in the United States and Europe. Concern in Europe was so great that the European Parliament passed a resolution on January 18, 2006 condemning homophobia. The Parliament explicitly cited the “banning of gay pride or equality marches” as one of the “worrying events” that prompted its resolution.

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