Parliamentary elections in April returned the Hungarian Socialist Party to power in coalition with the Alliance of Free Democrats. Police and protesters clashed between 17 and 20 September after it was revealed that the Prime Minister had admitted in May that he had lied during the election campaign. There was further violence on 23 October at the commemoration of the start of the 1956 uprising.
Excessive use of force and ill-treatment
Police officers reportedly used excessive force on peaceful demonstrations that later turned violent in the capital, Budapest, during the night of 20 to 21 September and again on 23 October. Rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas were said to have been used indiscriminately and without warning against both peaceful and violent protesters. Police officers were reportedly masked and not wearing badges of identification, such as identity numbers. There were also allegations that police beat protesters taken into custody, held under-18s together with adult detainees, and fabricated some of the charges. Some detainees were denied immediate access to a lawyer, including during questioning.
On 24 October, Budapest chief of police Péter Gergényi was reported as saying that police "acted lawfully, professionally and proportionately". On
27 October, the European Commission requested an explanation from the Hungarian authorities on the alleged excessive use of force. In November the Prime Minister set up a committee "to explore the social, economical and political causes which led to the riots and the response thereto". The committee would not deal with individual complaints.
In June, reporting on its visit in 2004, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture noted concerns about detainees' rights of access to a lawyer from the very outset of their detention. It called for a fully fledged and properly funded legal aid system for those in police custody unable to pay for a lawyer, and for a guarantee that detainees can be examined, if they so wish, by a doctor from outside the police service.
Discrimination against Roma
Members of the Romani community continued to face discrimination in education, housing and employment.
In March, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called for measures to be developed that would help Roma obtain decent housing, would firmly punish discriminatory or anti-Roma behaviour, and stop the over-representation of Romani children in special classes or home education.
In March the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child made public its Concluding Observation following review of Hungary's second periodic report under the UN Children's Convention. The Committee expressed concerns about the prevalence of discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes, in particular towards the Romani population. The Committee noted that Romani children were especially stigmatized, excluded and impoverished in relation to the rest of the population because of their ethnicity. Such discrimination was most notable in housing, jobs and access to health, adoption and educational services. The Committee expressed concern at the arbitrary segregation of Romani children in special institutions or classes. Access to preschools is reportedly limited in regions with predominantly Romani populations and high levels of poverty.
In June the Debrecen Appeals Court found that the Miskolc municipality, by integrating seven schools without simultaneously redefining their catchment areas, had perpetuated the segregation of Romani children, violating their right to equality of treatment. It was ruling on an appeal by the non-governmental organization Chance for Children Foundation against the county court dismissal in November 2005 of a lawsuit alleging citywide segregation of Romani school children by the local council of Miskolc.
Violence against women
In June the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women made available Hungary's sixth periodic report on measures taken to implement the UN Women's Convention. These included the Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities, in force since 2003, and new powers under the Criminal Procedure Code to issue restraint orders against the perpetrators of family violence, which came into force in July. However, women's and human rights organizations continued to criticize restrictions that allow restraint orders to be issued only when a criminal prosecution has been initiated.
In August the Committee found Hungary in violation of the UN Women's Convention for its failure to protect the reproductive rights of a Romani woman sterilized without her consent in 2001. It recommended that domestic legislation be brought in line with the principle of informed consent in cases of sterilization and with international human rights and medical standards. Provisions allowing physicians to carry out sterilizations without following specified procedures "when it seems to be appropriate in given circumstances" should be repealed.
AI country reports/visits
Hungary: Reports of excessive use of force by the police (AI Index: EUR 27/001/2006)
Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)
AI delegates visited Hungary in April and September.