Europe

Polish president signs Holocaust bill

Poland's president has signed into law a controversial bill that penalises anyone suggests the country was complicit in the Holocaust.

Poland's president has signed into law a bill that imposes jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust, prompting sharp criticism from Israel and the US.

Andrzej Duda said in a televised address on Tuesday the legislation would safeguard Poland's international reputation, but Israel called for amendments, saying the two countries had a "joint responsibility" to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

The US, a close NATO ally of Poland, expressed disappointment at Duda's decision.

"(This bill) ... protects Polish interests ... our dignity, the historical truth... so that we are not slandered as a state and as a nation," said Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) which introduced the legislation.

But it also "takes into account the sensitivity of those for whom the issue of historical truth, the memory of the Holocaust is incredibly important", Duda added.

The Polish law would impose prison sentences of up to three years for using the phrase "Polish death camps" and for suggesting "publicly and against the facts" that the Polish nation or state was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes.

PiS, a socially conservative, nationalist party that has clashed with the European Union and human rights groups on a range of issues since taking power in late 2015, says the new law is needed to ensure that Poles are recognised as victims, not perpetrators, of Nazi aggression in World War II.

Israel says the law will curb free speech, criminalise basic historical facts and stop any discussion of the role some Poles played in Nazi crimes. Activists say the passage of the bill has encouraged a rise in anti-Semitism.

Criticising Duda's move, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement: "Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry."

Israel said it still hoped Poland would make amendments.

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