Obligation to obey an order and failure to obey an order and their criminal law consequences

Czasopismo Prawa Karnego i Nauk Penalnych Rok XXVI: 2022, numer 1-2
Journal of Criminal Law and Penal Studies Volume XXVI: 2022, No. 1-2

Szymon Tarapata, Witold Zontek

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refugees, crisis, order, refusal to obey an order, Polish-Belarusian border, state of emergency, restrictions on rights and freedoms


The refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border related to the appearance on the bor-
der of a significant number of people who were brought to the territory of Belarus and
then directed to the territory of Poland in an organized manner by Belarusian services
led to a number of actions by, among others, Polish authorities, the legal aspects of which
required urgent elaboration. This article addresses the issue of the obligation to obey
an order and failure to obey an order and their criminal law consequences. The Polish
legislator based the responsibility for carrying out an order with criminal content on
the principle of “thinking bayonets.” Thus, a service representative cannot be completely
unreflective of his superior’s orders. He is entitled to verify the legality of the orders
addressed to him and may refrain from carrying them out when they contradict the
law. However, the systemic hierarchical nature of subordination cannot fully displace
individual criminal or disciplinary responsibility. It should be recognized that in cases
that are most obvious from the factual side, the behavior of officers in the execution of
an order (taking sick, wounded, or women with children to the forest in the cold without
providing them with any adequate medical-survival assistance) must raise doubts in
every officer about the legality of the order. In such cases, there is no room for excuses
for error regarding the potential legal evaluation of such acts.


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