Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Hungary
|Publication Date||24 May 2012|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Hungary, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe393534.html [accessed 11 December 2013]|
Head of state: Pál Schmitt
Head of government: Viktor Orbán
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 10 million
Life expectancy: 74.4 years
Under-5 mortality: 6.3 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 99.4 per cent
The new Constitution raised concerns over human rights protection. The trial began of those accused of the attacks against Roma committed in 2008 and 2009. Roma were intimidated by vigilante groups. The Ministry of Interior made a commitment to strengthen legislation on hate crimes.
In April, Parliament adopted a new Constitution. It introduced changes that may in practice restrict human rights, including protecting the life of the foetus from conception and the possibility of life imprisonment without parole. It also omitted age, sexual orientation and gender identity from the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.
In September, the UN Human Rights Council recommended that the government strengthen hate crimes legislation and establish a plan of action to prevent racist attacks.
In March, the trial began at the Pest County Court of the suspects in the series of attacks against Roma in 2008 and 2009 during which six people, including a child, were killed. Three men were accused of the crimes of multiple homicide and armed attack against Roma houses. One further suspect faced charges of being an accomplice to these crimes.
Discrimination – Roma
Discrimination against Roma remained entrenched in many areas of life. Roma inhabitants of Gyöngyöspata suffered intimidation from several vigilante groups between March and April. The police did little to stop the abuse.
Following an anti-Roma march by the far-right Jobbik party in Gyöngyöspata on 6 March, three vigilante groups continued to "patrol" the area. On 18 March, the Prime Minister instructed the Interior Minister to take measures to stop the activity of paramilitary organizations. In June, Parliament set up a committee to investigate the events. The investigation focused on who had "discredited Hungary" by spreading false information. Human rights NGOs who had monitored the situation were requested to testify to the committee. They expressed concerns that the committee's mandate did not ensure a thorough investigation into the events.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) submitted complaints to the Prosecutor in relation to four cases of verbal abuse and the attempt of physical violence against Roma in Gyöngyöspata. The HCLU alleged that in all four cases the police failed to investigate in accordance with international human rights standards. The police allegedly failed to classify the acts as violence against a member of a community, a criminal charge under which racially motivated violence can be prosecuted. They also failed to inform both victims about the relegation of these crimes to minor offences and of the stages of investigation. The Prosecutor ordered the police to reopen investigations in those cases.
In January, the Ministry of Interior started to develop a protocol for police work on hate crimes. Parliament amended the Criminal Code in May, and outlawed blatantly abusive behaviour against a community that might threaten members – real or perceived – of an ethnic, racial or other group. The amendment also criminalized unauthorized activities to maintain public order or public security, which induced fear in others.
In November, Parliament adopted a new law on the Constitutional Court, which introduced restrictions to individual petitions, as well as a penalty for those complainants who abuse the right to submit a petition.
Budapest City Council adopted a decree in April that made sleeping on the street an offence punishable by a fine. As a result, a number of homeless people were reportedly arrested in October. The government proposed further amendments to the Criminal Code, which would allow imprisonment of those found guilty of rough sleeping who could not afford to pay the fine. The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless described the proposal as disproportionate and said that it constituted a denial of state responsibility for structural problems leading to homelessness.
Freedom of expression
Two new media laws entered into force in January. They included content regulation and compulsory media registration, and introduced a Media Authority with powers over the registration of media. In February, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights recommended the media laws should be reviewed. Although Parliament amended the legislation in April, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression warned that it "still risks generating a climate of self-censorship". The OSCE and human rights NGOs expressed concerns over the lack of independence of the Media Authority from government, as well as its broad powers.
Freedom of religion or belief
On 12 July, a new law sparked protests from several churches, NGOs and the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights. The legislation "de-registered" numerous religious groups – including several Islamic groups and the Hungarian Methodist Church. A religious group could apply for registration only if it could prove that it had been organized in Hungary for at least 20 years and had at least 1,000 members. Several religious groups submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court to review the law. On 19 December, the Court found that the law was unconstitutional on procedural grounds. On 30 December, Parliament adopted the law again with only minor changes.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
In February, Budapest Metropolitan Court overturned a police decision to ban the route of the Pride march in Budapest, which the police claimed would disrupt the traffic. The court did not agree that this justified a ban. The Pride march was adequately protected, but NGOs reported several cases of incitement to hatred against lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people and an attack against two marchers.
Police and security forces
In March, Parliament annulled court decisions on the anti-government protests in Budapest in September and October 2006. In 2006, the courts had sentenced several demonstrators for violence and acquitted police officers involved in the incidents. The courts' decisions were alleged to be biased as they were based exclusively on police testimony. In 2006, police officers reportedly used excessive force on peaceful demonstrations that later turned violent. Rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas were said to have been used indiscriminately and without warning.
In June, the European Court of Human Rights held that the police had used inhuman and degrading treatment. The court awarded more than €10,000 to the applicant represented by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, who was ill-treated by the police while in custody.