HUNGARY: Parliament passes legislation criminalising solidarity to migrants

On 20 June, the Hungarian Parliament passed a law, known as the “Stop Soros” package, sanctioning under criminal offence individuals and organisations carrying out any migration-related activity, including “border monitoring at the external borderlines of Hungary” and “prepares or distributes information materials or commissions such activities“. The broad definition of such activities hampers legal certainty that must be ensured by penal law and raises issues of legitimacy and proportionality.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee commented:

<<the Criminal Code provision (Section 353/A on ‘promoting and supporting illegal migration’) uses vague notions; hence it breaches the criteria of legal certainty. The sanctions concerning the activities of civil society organizations clearly breach the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of association, which are protected not only by the Fundamental Law of Hungary but also by the European Union Convention on Human Rights and the European Union Charter on Fundamental Rights.>>

The Parliament also introduced a “special tax on immigration”, sanctioning up to 25% of the income of any organisation, with exception of political parties and public foundation, whose work is in any way related to migration. According to the English translation of the law by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, activities include:

a)carrying out media campaigns and media seminars and participating in such activities;

  1. b) organising education;
  2. c) building and operating networks or
  3. d) propaganda activities that portray immigration in a positive light.

According to Reuters, a report by the Venice Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – that will be voted on 22-23 June 2018 – clearly states that the bill “criminalizes activities that are fully legitimate”.  The vote took place in the Hungarian Parliament despite the pressure by the two bodies to postpone it until the release of the report.

On the same day, an amendment to Hungary’s Fundamental Law was approved which prioritises the right to privacy and family life over the right to assembly. According to Amnesty International Hungary, the legislation

<<could pave the way for violations of the right to freedom of assembly under international and regional human rights law by allowing the state to unnecessarily and disproportionately interfere with the right to peaceful protest. Specifically, the law may allow authorities to restrict protests without requiring that such restrictions be strictly necessary and proportionate to protect the rights and freedoms of others or to advance another legitimate goal. Such a blanket restriction on peaceful protest would undermine the right to freedom of assembly and cut off an important avenue for the public in Hungary to collectively and publicly address their concerns to political figures and other state actors.>>

The European Civic Forum condemns the two pieces of legislation which aim at criminalising solidarity and intimidating civil society from speaking up. Such legislation is a clear breach of the European and International law. We stand in solidarity with our Hungarian colleagues and we call upon the European institutions to take distance from and sanction the Hungarian government. We cannot allow our Union to become complacent with measures that disregard European values.

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