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Poland: Netizens Debate Proposal to Re-Introduce Death Penalty

In late November 2011, Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's largest opposition party Law and Justice, announced that he favored the re-introduction of the death penalty for “the gravest crimes.” The amendment to the penal code is to be presented to the parliment later this year, he said.

Kaczyński is currently facing a serious schism in his own party [pl], and although a mere announcement of such a view on capital punishment may be treated as a way to win over some voters, a huge debate concerning the subject has started nevertheless.

Being part of the European Union, it is highly unlikely that Poland would change the 1997 law that banned death penalty, but – as it turns out – a large part of the Polish society agrees with Mr. Kaczyński. After his statement, many among Polish right-wing politicians announced [pl] that they privately supported the capital punishment, although they accepted the Polish law, which marked it as illegal.

A survey on the subject, conducted in May by CBOS (Center for Public Opinion Reaserch), stated that 61 percent of the Polish population thought that “the death penalty should be used as a punishment in case of the most serious crimes,” and 34 percent of the respondents opposed it. The latest survey, conducted by the website of the most popular Polish daily newspaper, gazeta.pl [pl], after the debate had started, also shows that the majority consider re-establishment of the capital punishment a good idea.

According to the latest online survey, 51 percent of the respondents favor re-establishment of the death penalty for the gravest crimes.

According to the latest online survey, 51 percent of the respondents favor re-establishment of the death penalty for the gravest crimes.

As the public debate developed, the blogosphere also didn't remain silent for too long. Blogger remigiuszmielczarek [pl], who claims to be “Kaczyński's opposition in all other cases,” writes:

I am 100% sure that death as a punishment for a proved murder case, a premeditated killing, is positively deserved and justified. That is my perception of justice – when punishment is equal to the deed commited. When [Hammurabi] cut off hands of a thief he wasn't just, because his punishment was too severe. But it really boggles my mind that a brutal murderer is to be enjoying his life, even if imprisoned for life. Is it really just? In my opinion – it is not.

[...] These days it seems awkward to publicly admit to be a death penalty supporter – even though it is said that most of the people privately do support it. [...] One thing is certain: in this case the whole idea of a democratic majority doesn't seem to work…

Another blogger, michal1000, who posts on one of Poland's largest blog portals, salon24, writes [pl]:

I don't fear death penalty [...] because a judgement like that doesn't have to be passed, not one execution has to be performed. If no one murders another person with exceptional brutality, rapes and strangles a victim, beats to death an innocent child, a sentence like that won't come into existence. Not one of the above actions is obligatory in Poland, all of them are committed as an act of free will. You can either be innocent of those crimes and not fear the capital punishment, or commit them and face the consequences.

Blogger mojapolskadomowa speaks out [pl] against the death penalty:

The brutal fight for the approval of the right-wing electorate results in yet another competition between two groups originated from “Law and Justice” – Kaczyński's supporters and [Ziobro's]. Jarosław Kaczyński announced during the press conference that he would take steps to make the penal code more severe. Among other changes, he wants to re-establish the death penalty. Does Kaczyński want to steal the appearance of a sheriff away from Ziobro? [...] This type of punishment brings neither relief, nor atonement. No to the death penalty.

Another blogger, nocri, claims to be a death penalty supporter, but doesn't approve of Kaczyński's actions [pl]:

Yes, my dear readers, I personally don't have anything against death penalty. [...] But… I live in Poland. I accepted the decision that my country would become part of the EU. And by that I accepted the legal restrictions, forcing my country to abolish this kind of quite cruel repay. And because I did that, I have to accept the fact that re-establishing death penalty in Poland is legally impossible. That is the result of a compromise, which I have accepted.

That is why I cannot understand why some politicians are still trying to gain something by playing the “death penalty card.” I guess this is because it's quite easy to play with people's emotions. But this kind of a political game deserves only to be condemned. It is unrealistic, it is populism. I am ashamed of you, Mr. Kaczyński, not for the first time.

According to the social media research conducted by Social Media Kompas, most of the posts on the subject were submitted by Twitter users [pl]. One of them, @gkaczmarek, stated:

Just a few years ago more than 70% of the Poles were death penalty supporters, so today's 51% doesn't surprise me at all.

Another one, @nmaliszewski, wrote [pl]:

And to sum up – no wonder support for Law and Justice declines, Poles strive to earn a living and all Kaczyński thinks about is death penalty and marches

Comparing Kaczyński's statements on death penalty, @gregorius74 finds some of them contradictory [pl]:

Law and Justice is for death penalty, but only in Poland. When it comes to Belarus, it's no longer true. So patriotic :))

Although Pope Benedict XVI has clearly stated that the Church opposes death penalty and described it as cruel and unnecessary, Kaczyński, who considers himself a believer, doesn't see any conflict, mentioning “the long history of the Church's approval for the death penalty.” A few days ago, in reaction to Kaczyński's statement, Cardinal Archbishop of Warsaw Kazimierz Nycz noted that “only God may take one's life” [pl].

Blogger mylilefeluke comments on the situation [pl]:

It seems that lately some of the Catholics have gone nuts, they want the re-establishment of death penalty – in the name of Christ – as they say. They are all the first ones to yell “don't kill, each life is sacred,” they want to protect life, and then that bunch of hypocrites wants to bring back capital punishment. This type of thinking goes way back, and although it is from another era, it will always be here because people always make the same mistakes, they don't learn from the past.

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