Hungary - Amnesty International Report 2008

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF HUNGARY

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Head of State : László Sólyom
Head of government : Ferenc Gyurcsány
Death penalty : abolitionist for all crimes
Population : 10 million
Life expectancy : 72.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) : 11/9 per 1,000
Adult literacy : 99.4 per cent

Although allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by police continued, the authorities initiated measures aimed at strengthening safeguards against ill-treatment. Widespread prejudice, lack of political will and deficiencies in the criminal justice system presented at times insurmountable obstacles for women in obtaining justice or redress in cases of rape and sexual violence. Roma, particularly Romani women, continued to suffer discrimination in access to housing, health services and education. Rights of asylum-seekers were not fully guaranteed. The police failed to properly protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Police – excessive use of force and ill-treatment

In February, the Special Commission of Experts on the Demonstrations, Street Riots and Police Measures set up by the Prime Minister issued the report of its investigation into the policing of the demonstrations in Budapest in September-October 2006. Law enforcement officials had reportedly used excessive force during the demonstrations, which were initially peaceful but later turned violent.

The Special Commission called on the authorities to establish a fully resourced independent agency to investigate all allegations of serious human rights violations by law enforcement officers. It urged the authorities to ensure that complaints by individuals concerning alleged human rights violations in the context of the policing of demonstrations and their aftermath were promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated.

The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) made public in February its observations on Hungary’s compliance with the Convention against Torture.

It expressed concern at the length of the initial pre-trial detention phase (up to 72 hours), ongoing pre-trial detention on police premises, and the high risk of ill-treatment to which these provisions exposed detainees. Reports of police ill-treatment and discrimination against people belonging to minority groups and non-citizens were also noted.

The Parliament amended the Police Act in June to create an independent Police Complaints Commission which was due to begin operating in January 2008. In July József Bencze, the National Police Chief, announced the introduction of a 13-point code of ethics covering basic rules of conduct for officers, lawful use of force, discrimination and public trust.

  • Charges relating to an alleged attack on police officers by Ángel Mendoza, a Peruvian citizen, and a 14-year-old friend during the demonstrations of September 2006 were withdrawn in March. They were both detained in Budapest; while Ángel Mendoza and three other detainees were waiting in the reception of the police station, a group of policemen reportedly started to insult and hit them with batons. Ángel Mendoza and his friend were represented by the human rights organization Hungarian Helsinki Committee. The case against the police officers involved in the reported ill-treatment of Ángel Mendoza and the other detainees was still ongoing at the end of the year.

Violence against women

Women victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence faced difficulties in seeking justice and redress. Lack of political will, widespread prejudice and an unsympathetic criminal justice system were among the factors which contributed to a failure to protect the rights of women. Two-thirds of sexual crimes in Hungary are committed by people known to the victim, yet few perpetrators are tried.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) raised concerns about the prevalence of violence against women in Hungary, including domestic violence. It noted that the introduction of restraining orders had not been effective in providing protection to women victims of domestic violence. It also expressed concern about the lack of a specific law on domestic violence against women and reiterated its concern that the definition of rape was based on the use of force, rather than lack of consent.

  • Zsanett E., a 21-year-old woman, was allegedly assaulted by five police officers at the beginning of May in Budapest. While the case was allegedly initially covered up by police, after Zsanett E reportedly identified her alleged attackers, five officers were taken into preliminary custody, but were released a few weeks later. On 20 May, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány accepted the resignation of the Minister of Justice and Law Enforcement and the chief of the Police Security Service and dismissed the chief of National Police and the Budapest Police chief. In December, the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office dropped the investigation into the police officers. Zsanett E.’s lawyer appealed against the decision.

Discrimination – Roma

In May, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about continuing discrimination faced by Roma. Roma encountered discrimination in the labour market, in housing – inadequate conditions, increasing forced evictions and discriminatory barriers to accessing social housing – in the denial of access to health services, segregation in hospital facilities and inferior quality of health services provided, and in education, as evidenced by the high number of Romani children segregated in separate schooling.

CEDAW’s report, published in August, highlighted the prevalence of violence against Romani women and girls, including harassment and abuse at school, and noted the gaps in Romani women’s formal education and the high rates of dropout among Romani girls. The Committee expressed concern about the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on sex, ethnic or cultural background and socio-economic status which Romani women and girls face. It called for a holistic approach to eliminating these forms of discrimination and recommended that the Hungarian government take concrete measures to change stereotypical attitudes towards Romani women.

Detention of asylum-seekers and non-citizens

The CAT expressed concern at the detention policy applied to asylum-seekers and other non-citizens, who often faced detention for up to 12 months in so-called alien policing jails maintained by the Border Guard service. The CAT was also concerned that the right of non-citizens to claim asylum was not fully guaranteed at the border, and there were reports of unlawful expulsions of asylum-seekers and other non-citizens to third countries by the Border Guard service.

Failure to protect peaceful LGBT demonstrators

Police forces failed to protect participants from attacks by counter-demonstrators during and after the Budapest Pride March on 7 July. Counter-protesters threw eggs, bottles and Molotov cocktails at marchers and several people were injured. The police were present but reportedly took virtually no action. Criminal procedures against eight alleged perpetrators were initiated, and remained pending at the end of the year.

Same-sex partnership bill

In December, the Parliament passed a bill which will allow same-sex couples to register civil partnerships starting from 2009. The law gives the same rights to registered partners as to spouses, except for adoption.

Ratifications

In October Hungary signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Hungary also signed the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.

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