HUNGARY: New rules put a total ban on protests infringing on the right to freedom of assembly

Update 25 February 2021: The total ban for public gatherings has been in place for over 100 days and there is no sign it will be dropped any time soon. Read the blog post by the Hungarian Helsinkin Committee here (in Hungarian).


Article originally published by European Center for Not-for-Profit Law on 13 November 2020

On November 10, Hungary adopted new measures against the second wave of the pandemic. The Law on emergency measures against the second wave (Law CIX of 2020) extends the government’s emergency powers and it may now effectively rule by decree. As opposed to the similar law in the spring, which had been widely criticized by human rights groups, the current law sets a 90- day time limit for the government’s exceptional powers.

Based on the emergency law, the government then adopted a decree detailing the specific measures introduced to prevent and fight the spread of the coronavirus – in effect until December 11. Among others, the decree:

  • puts a blanket ban on assemblies in public spaces,
  • allows military to take part in patrols, as well as in monitoring compliance with security measures,
  • imposes heavy fines for violations up to 1.400 EUR (500.000 HUF) for participants of banned protests.

While restricting the right to assemble due to concern over public health is permitted under international human rights law, any form of blanket ban on assemblies is generally considered as disproportionate. Limitations need to remain proportionate as the context of the pandemic changes and lifted as soon as possible as part of a transition to more normal daily routines.

Students at the University of Theater and Cinematic Arts, who have been protesting for the university’s autonomy for the last 70 days and keeping up a blockade at the campus premises, ended their physical gathering as per the regulation, but declared they would be continuing their #freeSZFE protest in the online space.

In parallel with the COVID-19- measures restricting freedom of movement and assembly, the government also submitted several new legislative proposals to the Parliament, raising concerns about cracking down on gender equality, freedom of thought, access to information, as well as modifying the electoral law in a way that it makes it more difficult for the opposition parties to nominate individual candidates in a coordinated manner. Read more on these aspects on the website of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.