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Hungary: Police corruption, including recourse available to those with a complaint of police corruption or inaction in response to crimes; state funded agencies available to assist complainants

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 22 September 2010
Citation / Document Symbol HUN103566.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Police corruption, including recourse available to those with a complaint of police corruption or inaction in response to crimes; state funded agencies available to assist complainants, 22 September 2010, HUN103566.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dd23cce2.html [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Sources indicate that Hungary has one centralized national police force (TI 2007, 96; World Police Encyclopedia 2006, 370; Interpol n.d.; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d). The United States (US) Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, notes that in the structure of the Hungarian National Police (HNP), city police departments are subordinate to 20 regional police departments, which are, in turn, managed at the national level (ibid.). The HNP falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement (ibid.). According to Transparency International (TI), the National Commissioner, who heads the HNP, is appointed by the prime minister, who also has the authority to remove the National Commissioner from his post (TI 2007, 96). TI indicates that there were approximately 45,000 officers in the HNP in 2007 (ibid., 98).

A variety of sources indicate that police corruption in Hungary is a problem (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d; OCCRP 16 Dec. 2008; TI 2007, 96). According to TI, working conditions of the police in Hungary "create fertile soil for corrupt conduct," and 10 to 25 percent of registered corruption-related offences have been committed by police officers (TI 2007, 95-96). TI suggests that efforts by law enforcement agencies to investigate corruption are crippled by corruption within those agencies (ibid., 95).

Two sources state that Hungarian police officers are susceptible to corruption, in part, due to low pay (TI 2007, 98; OCCRP 24 Aug. 2007). The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a regional project based in Sarajevo, which aims to provide in-depth investigative reporting on organized crime and corruption in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (OCCRP 24 Aug. 2007), also states that the Hungarian police system is vulnerable to corruption because it rewards obedience over professionalism (ibid. 16 Dec. 2008). TI similarly describes the HNP as "highly centralised and militarised" and notes that under some conditions, police officers are required to follow orders from their superiors even when the orders are contrary to the law (TI 2007, 96, 97). OCCRP asserts that corruption among top-level police officers is a larger problem than low-level corruption since officials at higher levels have the power to shut down investigations (OCCRP 16 Dec. 2008).

According to Country Reports 2009, police officers found guilty of misconduct in Hungary may face reprimand, dismissal and/or criminal prosecution (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d). Country Reports 2009 notes that between 1 January 2009 and 31 October 2009, 2,458 police officers were found guilty of "breaching discipline," 716 were found guilty of misdemeanour offences, 26 were found unfit for duty, 4 received prison sentences, 28 received suspended sentences, 213 were fined, 5 were demoted, 26 were dismissed, 42 were reprimanded, and 10 were convicted of corruption (ibid.). Country Reports 2009 also notes that, according to the human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), police officials accused of crimes receive preferential treatment from courts, are usually not suspended from duty during criminal investigations, and are sentenced to lighter punishments when convicted of crimes (ibid.).

TI ranks Hungary as 46th of 180 countries in the perceived level of corruption index (TI 2009). According to TI, corruption cases are investigated by both the police and prosecution, but are hindered by insufficient expertise (TI 2007, 97). The Council of Europe's (COE) Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) found that Hungary's legislation on corruption conforms to the requirements of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and its Additional Protocol and notes that there have been convictions for bribery in both the public and private spheres (COE 11 June 2010, No. 85). Freedom House states that Hungary's anti-corruption framework appears impressive because of initiatives to reach European Union (EU) standards, but characterizes the implementation of the anti-corruption laws as "patchy at best," due to insufficient resources and political will (Freedom House 2010, 245). TI assesses Hungary's anti-corruption activities as "ad hoc measures" in response to international requirements, which "avoid tackling key issues" (TI 2007, 26). Country Reports 2009 indicates that the Hungarian government has not implemented laws against official corruption effectively, and that corruption in the executive and legislative branches of government reportedly increased during 2009 (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 4).

Country Reports 2009 and Freedom House report that the Hungarian Parliament passed an anti-corruption bill in 2009, which introduced whistleblower protection measures, the creation of an anti-corruption agency, and measures to increase transparency of public procurement (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 4; Freedom House 2010, 246). However, Country Reports 2009 notes that the president only signed the whistleblower protection and returned the other parts of the legislation to Parliament for further review (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 4).

State agencies combating police misconduct or corruption

Sources indicate that the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) began operation in January 2008 (HHC 21 Sept. 2009, 3; COE 8 June 2010; den Boer and Fernhout 4 Dec. 2008; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d). The IPCB, which is independent of the police, reviews complaints of police actions which violate fundamental rights (ERRC 5 July 2010; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d; Global Integrity 2008a; HHC 21 Sept. 2009, 3). Sources report that the IPCB is composed of five members (ibid.; ERRC 5 July 2010; COE 8 June 2010, Para. 20; TI 2007, 103) who make recommendations to the head of the National Police (COE 8 June 2010; TI 2007, 103). If the recommendations are not accepted, the matter can be referred to a court (COE 8 June 2010, 15; TI 2007, 103).

Sources indicate that the IPCB does not have authority to initiate inquiries (COE 8 June 2010, 15; ERRC 5 July 2010; HHC 21 Sept. 2009, 27). According to a report evaluating the first year and a half of the IPCB, HHC notes that the IPCB's investigative rights are "insufficient" and are usually limited to the complaint and the file of the case as submitted by the police, making it difficult for the member to reconstruct the facts (HHC 21 Sept. 2009, 27). The Budapest-based NGO European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) describes the IPCB as "a credible and independent watchdog to ensure the accountability of the police" and has called for the government to ensure the IPCB's independence and strengthen its mandate (ERRC 5 July 2010).

A report by the COE's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) states that, according to the IPCB members, the police followed up on only a small proportion of the IPCB's recommendations (COE 8 June 2010). Country Reports 2009 indicates that by 15 December 2009, the IPCB had received 697 complaints from the public, reviewed 457 complaints and found violations in 215 cases; of 52 cases forwarded to the National Police Chief, the Chief agreed with 8 cases, partially accepted the findings of 23 cases, and rejected the findings of the other 21 cases (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1d).

Another avenue of redress is the Parliamentary Commissioners' Office (also known as the Ombudsmen) (Hungary n.d.a). There are four Parliamentary Commissioners: the Parliamentary Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the National and Ethnic Minorities Rights, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights (ibid.; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 5). The General Guide to the Parliamentary Commissioner's Office states that anyone whose constitutional rights were violated, or who has received threats of violations, by a public employee or official (including police), could apply to the Ombudsman for Civil Rights (Hungary n.d.b). Examples of grievances listed in the guide are: "unreasonably long procedures; discrimination; inaccurate, or wrong information provided; inequitable personal treatment; unreasonable refusal of information dissemination; unlawful decision; and other omission" (ibid.). According to TI and Country Reports 2009, the ombudsmen are elected by Parliament to six-year terms and are responsible solely to Parliament (TI 2007, 112; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 5). TI notes that although the recommendations of the ombudsman institutions have no binding effect, the proportion of recommendations accepted is high (TI 2007, 119). Country Reports 2009 states that the ombudsmen operate without government interference and that the public is generally positive about their activities (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 5).

Two sources indicate that there is also a complaints office at the National Police headquarters (World Police Encyclopedia 2006, 371; Interpol n.d.). TI indicates that police action, or inaction, can be challenged in the civil courts; victims can file lawsuits for damages to remedy personal rights violations (TI 2007, 99).

Sources indicate that there is no single independent institution in Hungary to investigate corruption cases, but there are a number of governmental departments mandated to fight different types of corruption (Global Integrity 2008c; Freedom House 2010, 245). According to Global Integrity, an international non-profit organization monitoring government and corruption (Global Integrity n.d.), the Defence Service of Law Enforcement Agencies, which falls under the Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement, investigates if a member of law enforcement is involved in a corruption case; citizens can turn to them with information (Global Integrity 2008c). Freedom House reports that high-level corruption and organized crime cases are under the jurisdiction of the Central Investigation Department of the National Office of the Prosecutor (Freedom House 2010, 246).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Council of Europe (COE). 11 June 2010. Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO). Third Evaluation Round. Evaluation Report on Hungary on Incriminations (ETS 173 and 191, GPC 2). [Accessed 26 Aug. 2010]

_____. 8 June 2010. Report to the Hungarian Government on the Visit to Hungary Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 24 March to 2 April 2009. [Accessed 26 Aug. 2010]

Den Boer, Monica and Roel Fernhout. 4 December 2008. Policing the Police. Police Oversight Mechanisms in Europe: Towards a Comparative Overview of Ombudsmen and Their Competencies. [Accessed 26 Aug. 2010]

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 5 July 2010. "Jeno Kaltenbach Resigned from Hungarian Independent Police Complaints Commission." [Accessed 26 Aug. 2010]

Freedom House. 2010. "Hungary." Nations in Transit 2010. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2010]

Global Integrity. 2008a. "Law Enforcement." Hungary: Integrity Indicators Scorecard. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2010]

_____. 2008b. "National Ombudsman." Hungary: Integrity Indicators Scorecard. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2010]

_____. 2008c. "Anti-Corruption Agency." Hungary: Integrity Indicators Scorecard. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2010]

_____. N.d. "Our Story." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2010]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). 21 September 2009. Krisztina Fodor Lukács, András Kádár and Judit Kovác Zsolt Körtvélyesi. GusztáNagy. Evaluating a Year and a Half. The Most Important Problems Emerged in the Practice of the Independent Police Complaints Board of Hungary. (provided by HHC in correspondence)

Hungary. N.d.a. "Parliamentary Commissioners' Office of Hungary." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2010]

_____. N.d.b. "General Guide to the Parliamentary Commissioner's Office." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2010]

Interpol. N.d. "Hungary." European Police and Justice Systems. [Accessed 19 Aug. 2010]

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). 16 December 2008. "Hungary: Corruption Continues." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2010]

_____. 24 August 2007. "About Us." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2010]

Transparency International (TI). 2009. "Corruption Perceptions Index 2009." [Accessed 20 Aug. 2010]

_____. 2007. Ed. Eszter Kósa and Noémi Alexa. Corruption Risks in Hungary. National Integrity System Country Study. [Accessed 26 Aug. 2010]

United States (US). 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2010]

World Police Encyclopedia. 2006. "Hungary." Edited by Dilip K. Das. London: Routledge.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Representatives of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the National Institute of Criminology were unable to provide additional information.

Internet sites, including: European Country of Origin Network (ecoi.net), Factiva, Human Rights Watch, National Institute of Criminology, Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Transitions Online.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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