Hungary / Racism: "Time to transform international obligations into effective implementation at home" - UN expert

BUDAPEST / GENEVA (31 May 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism, Githu Muigai, commended the Hungarian Government's efforts to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the country. However, at the end of his first mission* to Hungary from 23-27 May, Mr. Muigai drew attention to a number of crucial challenges yet to be overcome.

Since the last visits of the Special Rapporteur on racism in 1999 and the Independent Expert on minorities issues in 2006, the expert noted that Hungary has made significant legislative, political and institutional efforts to fulfill its international human rights obligations and commitments with respect to the situation of national and ethnic minorities and the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

"But challenges remain," according to Mr. Muigai, "including as to the implementation of the measures taken." These are some of them:

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
The situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is a matter that calls for some attention. Complaint of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia by refugees and asylum seekers on a daily basis were reported during the mission and the Special Rapporteur expressed his concern at the conditions of detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants, including women, elderly persons, and children. It is important for the Government to ensure that it fully complies with its international human rights obligations.

National and Ethnic Minorities
Efforts undertaken by the Government to address the needs of, and problems faced by national and ethnic minorities ought to be noted. However, it is important to ensure that the recent constitutional changes will not weaken the current legal and institutional framework for the protection of minorities rights.

While the Government has developed key important measures to address the situation of Roma, their situation has not improved in the last years but rather worsened. They have been the most affected by Hungary's difficult transition period from socialism to a market-based economy and they continue to face racism, racial discrimination and intolerance in the areas of employment, education, housing and health. Reports of violence and abuse against Roma by the police, and discrimination in the judiciary, including in the criminal system, were also brought to Mr. Muigai's attention. "If we do not act now, there may not be a tomorrow on this issue," he said. "There is a great urgency to reinvigorate the education of Roma with all the necessary resources of the Hungarian Government. Hungary will have succeeded when it removes Roma from poverty, lack of education and unemployment".

Anti Semitism
Immediate action is required to tackle anti-Semitism in Hungary. The Government must be vigilant and the necessary mechanisms to address this issue should be set up.

Extremist political parties, movements and groups
"Hungary is a young and dynamic democracy," the Special Rapporteur said calling upon the vigilance of the Government vis-à-vis the resurgence of extremist political parties, movements and groups, some of which are alleged to have racist platform. The expert also drew the Government's attention to hate speech. It is important to prevent such behaviour and ensure that those responsible for racist acts are held accountable and the victims provided with appropriate legal remedies.

During his mission, Mr. Muigai travelled to Ózd, Gyöngyöspata, Pécs and Mohács. He held meetings with the local authorities, the representatives of the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, the Ministry of National resources, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The expert also held discussions with the Parliament, members of the municipal court in Budapest, political parties, representatives of civil society, lawyers, community members, academics and private citizens. The expert also met with the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information. Mr. Muigai also visited a prison in Budapest (Fővárosi Büntetés-végrehajtási Intézet) and a school in Ózd.

A full report of the Special Rapporteur's mission to Hungary will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012.

Githu Muigai (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in August 2008. He is a lawyer specialized in international human rights law. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on racism was established in 1993 by the former Commission on Human Rights to examine incidents of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and official measures to overcome them. It was further extended by the Council in 2011.


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