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Hungary: Recourse available to those with a complaint of police inaction in response to crimes; harassment or discrimination; organizations that would be of assistance in such cases (January 2003 - August 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 22 September 2005
Citation / Document Symbol HUN100494.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Recourse available to those with a complaint of police inaction in response to crimes; harassment or discrimination; organizations that would be of assistance in such cases (January 2003 - August 2005), 22 September 2005, HUN100494.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147f311.html [accessed 28 November 2014]
Comments Corrected version March 2007
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.

Specific information on the recourse available to those with a complaint of police inaction in Hungary was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Internal Instruments

Hungary has a single national police force and no gendarmerie or municipal police forces (Interpol 13 July 2005). The police force is divided into three levels: the national, county, and local (district or municipal) levels (ibid.). Both police and border guards carry out law enforcement and fall under the Ministry of the Interior (ibid.).

The Office of the National Police Headquarters has a complaints and internal affairs unit (ibid.), although specific details on the mandate and organization of this unit could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The Protective Service of Enforcement Agencies of Hungary's Ministry of Interior has a mandate to prevent and investigate crimes committed by members of the Police, the Border Guard, the National Directorate General for Disaster Management (which includes Civil Defence and national and local fire stations), the Customs and Finance Guard, and penal organizations, as well as the ministry-level bodies that supervise these agencies (Hungary n.d.d). The Service investigates such crimes as abuse of office and crimes committed by those acting in an official capacity (ibid.).

Prosecutor's Office

Article 51 of the Hungarian Constitution stipulates the mandate of the Hungarian Prosecution Service:

The Prosecution Service ensures the protection of the rights of the citizens, and shall prosecute to the full extent of the law any act which violates or endangers the constitutional order, the security and independence of the country (Hungary n.d.c).

This mandate provides for, among other responsibilities, the supervision of criminal investigations to ensure they are carried out legally (ibid.; Interpol 13 July 2005).

Information on the procedure to be followed by the Prosecutor's Office, including extracts from the Criminal Procedure law and a commentary on actual practice can be found in the Hungarian Helsinki Committee document attached to this Response.

Parliamentary Commissioner's Office

According to the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights of Hungary, 2003 saw a decline in complaints directed at the police over previous years (2003). According to Country Reports 2004, in 2004, this office received "frequent" complaints from Roma alleging police abuse or misconduct (25 Feb. 2005, Sec. 1c). The Commissioner's 2004 report notes that measures to improve police procedures should take into account the fact that police officers have been "inclined to use a 'simplified' style with Roma, young people and the homeless," to "speak down" to these groups and to use the informal form of "you" with them, and that confidence between the Hungarian public and the police has yet to reach a level where "prejudice and ethnic discrimination" are not suspected in the carrying out of police procedures (Hungary 2004, 132).

The Website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights states that any person can file a complaint with the Commissioner if he or she feels that as a result of a government "agency's decision, proceedings or negligence, a violation has taken place in her/his national or ethnic minority rights, or that the direct threat of such a violation is imminent" (Hungary n.d.b). Among the agencies covered by this policy include the police, the national security service, and the armed forces (including the army and border patrol) (ibid.). The "undue delay in handling [the complainant's] affairs" constitutes one example of a possible violation of national or ethnic minority rights (ibid. n.d.). The Website further provides detailed instructions on how to file a complaint, as well as appropriate addresses and contact information (ibid.).

According to Transitions Online, in August 2004, Jeno Kaltenbach, the parliamentary commissioner for national and ethnic minority rights, following the "sudden" death of a 19-year-old Roma man taken into police custody, initiated an investigation into police mistreatment of minorities, while his deputy, Albert Takacs, initiated a separate investigation focusing on police brutality (9 Aug. 2004).

In another incident, the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights received a complaint from a man who felt that the circumstances surrounding the traffic death of his son, a Roma, had not been adequately investigated by the police (Hungary 2004, 133). The Commissioner sent the case to the chief prosecutor, whose investigation found that while the police had carried out an acceptable investigation into the traffic accident leading to the young man's death, there were mistakes in subsequent police procedures which prevented the police from delivering a resolution to the deceased man's family (ibid.). As a result, the chief prosecution office took the necessary steps to correct the situation (ibid.).

The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights receives complaints from those who feel their constitutional rights either have been violated or are immediately threatened as a result of a proceeding, decision or omission by various government agencies, including investigative authorities such as the police, the tax-police or the investigation office of the general attorney (Hungary n.d.a). The Website of the Parliamentary Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights lists several categories of possible constitutional infringements, but stresses that complaints can be filed only with the Commissioner only after other possible legal measures have been exhausted (n.d.a).

Additional Avenues of Recourse

Amnesty International (AI) is among the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that advocates on behalf of Hungarians (AI 2004). It has pushed for the investigation by the General Prosecutor of incidents of alleged police misconduct motivated by racism (ibid.). As well, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), which is involved in, among other activities, "strategic litigation" in the defence of Roma rights (23 Feb. 2005), and the Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), which initiates litigation and represents alleged victims of ethnic or national discrimination before Hungarian authorities (HRI n.d.), are available to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.

Government Response

Country Reports 2004 claimed that the Hungarian government "actively pursued allegations of police abuse," and police officers and activists are trained in victim protection and are provided with a list of NGOs that provide protection to victims of crime (25 Feb. 2005, Sec. 1.c). However, in its report on events of 2004 in Europe, Central Asia and North America, the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) argued that police officers suspected of abuse were "rarely" indicted (2005). In addition, AI's 2004 report on events occurring in 2003 noted that few police officers who had allegedly abused Roma were prosecuted or appropriately punished (2004). According to AI, this lack of adequate follow-up on the part of the police discouraged some who claimed to have suffered ill treatment from police from reporting such incidents (AI 2004; see also IHF 2005).

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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 2004. "Hungary." Amnesty International Report 2004. [Accessed 30 Aug. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 25 February 2005. "Hungary." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 2 Sept. 2005]

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). 23 February 2005. "What is the European Roma Rights Centre?" [Accessed 30 Aug. 2005]

Human Rights Internet (HRI). N.d. "Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI)." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2005]

Hungary. 2004. Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights. Report of 2004. [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]
_____. 2003. Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights. Report of 2003. [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]
_____. N.d.a. Parliamentary Commisioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights. "General Guide to the Parliamentary Commissioner's Office." [Accessed 2 Sept. 2005]
_____. N.d.b. Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights. "Information Sheet." [Accessed 2 Sept. 2005]
_____. N.d.c. Prosecution Service of the Republic of Hungary. "Tasks of the Prosecutor for Criminal Cases." [Accessed 2 Sept. 2005]
_____. N.d.d. Ministry of Interior. Protective Service of Enforcement Agencies. [Accessed 8 Sept. 2005]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 2005. "Hungary." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2005 (Events of 2004). [Accessed 2 Sept. 2005]

International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). 13 July 2005. "Hungary." [Accessed 1 Sept. 2005]

Transitions Online [Prague]. 9 August 2004. Judit Szakacs. "A Brutal Police Force?" (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

The Legal Defense Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities did not respond to a requests for information within time constraints.

Internet Sites, including: European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Habeas Corpus Working Group (HSM), Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Journal of East European Law [New York], Open Society Institute (OSI), Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) [Budapest], Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), World News Connection (WNC).

Attachment

Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). September 2005. András Kádár. "Avenues of recourse available to those with a complaint of police inaction in response to crimes, harassment or discrimination in Hungary." Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate 13 September 2005.

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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