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LGBT rights at heart of Poland presidential-election fight

While campaigning for re-election ahead of Sundays final-round vote, Polands President Andrzej Duda ..

While campaigning for re-election ahead of Sundays final-round vote, Polands President Andrzej Duda has used harmful rhetoric and called for policies that deny human rights to LGBT people. But longtime activists see Polish attitudes changing, and are pushing back.


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During his re-election campaign, Duda has compared what he calls “LGBT ideology” to Communism. He does not support the right of same-sex couples in Poland to marry or form civil unions, and believes that schools should not teach classes on gay rights.

His anti-LGBT rhetoric echoes the comments of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Polands ruling Law and Justice party, who in September 2019 said that “the family as we know it is under attack”. In the same month, Marek Jedraszewski, the archbishop of Krakow, linked totalitarian regimes and their “systems for destroying people” with “gender ideology and LGBT ideology”.

Dudas opponent in Sundays vote, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, signed a resolution in February 2019 declaring his city a welcoming place for LGBT people, and attended Warsaws Pride parade later that year. He supports same-sex civil unions and has also promised to prevent Law and Justice, which controls Polands parliament, from further restricting abortion rights.

The stakes for LGBT people in Poland in the election are high. As of late June, approximately 100 Polish municipalities had adopted resolutions declaring themselves “LGBT-free zones”, a movement that began after Trzaskowski committed to support LGBT rights in Warsaw. At Pride marches in Poland in 2019, participants suffered verbal abuse and physical attacks, and two people were sentenced to a year in jail for bringing explosives to an event in Lublin.

There has also been plenty of evidence that Poles are rejecting discrimination and violence. After an Equality march in Bialystok last July that suffered violent attacks from anti-LGBT demonstrators, event organisers told FRANCE 24 that they received donations that allowed them to rent office space for the first time. When counter-protesters shouted a homophobic slur at a September parade in Katowice, a middle-aged woman who identified as a straight ally shared a message with FRANCE 24 at the scene: “Id like to apologise to the whole of Europe for the fact that scenes like this are happening here.”

This past February, after Saint-Jean-de-Braye, a small town in the centre of France, cut its sister-city relationship with Tuchow, a Polish town that adopted an anti-LGBT resolution, AP reported that Tuchows mayor regretted the move and said that numerous locals didnt feel that the towns council spoke for them.

Duda prevailed in the 2020 elections first round with 43.5 percent of the vote, with Tzsaskowski finishing second with 30.46 percent, setting the two up for Sundays run-off. A recent poll released by Kantar and cited by Euronews shows the two candidates in almost a dead heat.

As Poland votes, Europe is watching. In a June 29 interview with FRANCE 24, Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner for Equality – a new EU position – said that if Polish towns use EU funds in accordance with anti-LBGT policy, the allocations “will have to be revisited”. Dalli also said labour discrimination based on sexual or gender identity in so-called “LBGT-free zones” would be “unacceptable”.

While some Polish LBGT activists told FRANCE24 they arent happy with parts of Trzaskowskis platform – for instance, his support for civil unions falls short of marriage equality – they support him nonetheless, and their work has brought them into the street and onto the campaign trail.

Fighting hate, and fatigue

On Thursday, LGBT activist Magdalena Dropek, 37, travelled from her home in Krakow to a rally for Duda in the nearby town of Olkusz. She and fellow protesters shouted “Enough!” and waved rainbow and EU flags as the presidents supporters held red-and-white “Duda 2020” signs.

Dropek, who has co-organised Krakows annual Equality March since 2012 and sits on the supervisory board of the Znaki Rownosci (Equality) Federation of LGBT activist organisations, said she heard calls of “traitor” and "pervert” at the rally. But she also told FRANCE 24 that she was surprised that “so many young, diverse people came … to show their disagreement for Dudas actions and words”.

Speaking the night before the event, Dropek said that LGBT activists in Poland have had to “constantly defend” themselves since early 2019, when Law and Justice, which holds a parliamentary majority, began casting them as a threat to traditional Polish values. It has made it difficult for activists to focus on developing their organisations, she said.

“Were burned out,” Dropek said, although she planned to attend a protest of a recent beating that occurred outside an LGBT club in Krakow on Friday.

She has seen three prominent activist organisations mount online efforts to discourage Polish voters from supporting Duda. One, the Stonewall Project, has exhorted visitors to its Facebook page to vote for Trzaskowski, whereas the Campaign Against Homophobia and Love Does Not Exclude have stated Read More – Source

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Illegal Immigrants Building Paris 2024 Olympics Amidst Political and Social Tension

Gaye Sarambounou is used to toiling long days for a pittance. He’s a Malian living in France with no working papers, but it’s a situation that occurs around the world. The difference here is that Sarambounou is one of an army of construction workers preparing next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

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Aliku Ogorchukwu: Wife of Nigerian killed in Italy demands justice

The wife of a Nigerian street trader who was killed in Italy has told the BBC she is seeking justice following his “painful death”.

Aliku Ogorchukwu, 39, was reportedly selling handkerchiefs in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche on Friday when he was chased and beaten to death.

A 32-year-old Italian has been arrested on suspicion of murder and robbery.

A video circulating online shows a man on top of Ogorchukwu, punching him with his bare hands.

None of those who witnessed the broad daylight attack appeared to intervene.

“This is a form of wickedness I don’t know,” Ogorchukwu’s wife, Charity Oriachi, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa.

Ms Oriachi said she had received help in coming to terms with her husband’s death but was tired of “talk”. Now, she was only interested in justice, she insisted.

Her family had lived in Italy for a long time, she said, stressing that her husband had never sought any trouble.

The killing has sparked outrage in the local community, including Nigerians, who took to the streets over the weekend and are planning another demonstration soon.

The Nigerian government has asked Italian authorities to quickly “bring the perpetrator of the heinous act” to justice.

Suspect not released

The suspect – a white man named as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo – has been ordered to remain in jail as the investigation continues.

His defence lawyer told the media the suspect had said he was sorry and that there was “no racial element” involved.

A police investigator said Ogorchukwu was attacked after the trader’s “insistent” requests to the suspect and his partner for spare change.

The partner, identified as Elena D, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Ogorchukwu had touched her arm, but that did not bother her.

Ms Oriachi now wants to see the suspect “face to face”, to understand why he killed her husband, the family’s lawyer told the Associated Press.

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Ukrainian widow confronts Russian soldier accused of killing her husband

In the very first days of this invasion a 62-year-old unarmed civilian was shot dead on a village street outside his Ukrainian home. His name was Oleksandr Shelipov.

Three months later and the captured Russian soldier accused of killing him is in Kyiv being tried for a war crime.

Standing up in court to confront the 21-year-old defendant on Thursday was Kateryna Shelipova, the widow of the man killed.

Did he repent his crime, she asked?

The Russian tank commander, Vadim Shishimarin, replied that he admitted his guilt and asked for her forgiveness. “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he added.

Kateryna Shelipova hadn’t finished. “Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?” she asked, citing Vladimir Putin’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine.

“Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?”

The soldier had no answer to that.

This landmark trial marks the first time a Russian serviceman has been put on the stand for war crimes since the invasion of Ukraine was launched in February.

And perhaps such raw encounters are what such trials are about, at least in part. Forcing a soldier – who ignored all the rules of war – to face up to exactly what he has done and the suffering he has caused.

Sgt Shishimarin has pleaded guilty and Ukrainian prosecutors are asking for him to be sentenced to life imprisonment.

On Wednesday, Ms Shelipova told me she actually felt sorry for the soldier, but she could not forgive him for this crime.

She heard the shots that killed her husband, then saw Sgt Shishimarin through her gate – holding his weapon.

Five minutes later she says she saw her husband’s body: “He was dead with a shot in his head. I started screaming very loudly.”

“The loss of my husband is everything for me,” Ms Shelipova said, adding: “He was my protector.”

‘It killed him’

Recalling the events of 28 February, Vadim Shishimarin said he and a small group of other Russian soldiers had become separated from their unit and hijacked a car in order to return to it.

“As we were driving, we saw a man. He was talking on the phone,” the defendant said.

He claimed that he hadn’t wanted to fire the fatal shots, that he was following orders – threatened by another soldier if he refused to do as he was told.

“He said I would be putting us in danger if I didn’t. I shot him at short range. It killed him,” the 21-year-old tank commander told the court.

Interestingly, his defence lawyer – appointed by the state – told me that no Russian official has been in touch with him, including from its defence ministry.

There is no Russian embassy in Kyiv these days, so no contact from there either.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman yesterday told the BBC that the Kremlin has “no information” about this case.

All in all, it feels rather like the young soldier has been abandoned to his fate by the commanders who sent him to war and continue to deny that their forces commit crimes here.

We also heard from a second Russian soldier who witnessed the killing in February and later surrendered to Ukrainian forces.

Ivan Maltysev, another slight and young-looking 21-year-old, told the court how the Russian soldiers spotted Oleksandr Shelipov while they were driving the stolen car.

Mr Maltysev claimed that Vadim Shishimarin was then ordered to shoot the victim because he was on the phone.

“Vadim didn’t do it. So the soldier, whose name I don’t know, turned round in the car and shouted that Vadim had to carry out the order, or we would be informed on.

“At this point, we were almost alongside the civilian and, under pressure, Vadim fired. He fired three or four rounds.”

Ukraine has so far identified more than 11,000 possible war crimes committed by Russia.

Moscow has denied its troops have targeted civilians, but investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

This trial is Ukraine’s chance to prove, beyond doubt, that a Russian soldier killed a civilian with no regard for the rules of war.

Its prosecutors know they are in the spotlight, proceeding so quickly, and in the middle of a war.

That is why they are keen to be as transparent and thorough as possible – so that this is not seen as a show trial, but part of a vital quest for justice.

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