HUNGARY: Rule of law developments between May-July 2020

Article originally published on Hungarian Helsinki Committee website, 17 August 2020 – accessible here

In its Information Note, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee provides an overview of certain rule of law developments in Hungary between May and July 2020, covering concerns pertaining to the justice system and institutional issues related to checks and balances.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s Information Note partly serves as a follow-up to the contribution of Hungarian NGOs to the European Commission’s first Rule of Law Report, submitted in May 2020.

The Information Note covers the following recent rule of law developments in Hungary:

  • As a reaction to a judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union in May that condemned Hungary for the unlawful detention of asylum-seekers in transit zones on the border, Hungary adopted rules whereby it practically removed itself from the Common European Asylum System.
  • As a reaction to a court judgment in a Roma education segregation case whereby the municipality and the state institution was obliged to pay damages to the segregated Roma pupils, the Parliament adopted a law that prevents courts from granting pecuniary compensation in similar cases. This amendment amounts to indirect discrimination based on ethnicity, and is in violation of EU law.
  • The Parliament adopted a law that bans legal gender recognition, and so violates the rights of transgender people as enshrined in international human rights standards.
  • Some of the decrees the Government issued during the state of danger declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making use of the carte blanche mandate it received through the Authorization Act, raised rule of law and/or human rights concerns, and some were even in breach of EU law.
  • Although the state of danger was terminated, amendments introduced as of 18 June 2020 provided the Government with excessive powers that can be applied with a reference to an epidemic with significantly weakened constitutional safeguards. At the same time, it is not ensured that the Constitutional Court can carry out a constitutional review of the respective government decrees swiftly and effectively.
  • The newest national consultation launched by the Government bashes the EU and the Court of Justice of the European Union.
  • A parliamentary resolution adopted before EU budgetary talks called the Government to oppose rule of law conditionality and oppose the support for civil society organisations from EU funds.
  • The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (the national human rights institution of Hungary) has not stepped up or failed to act effectively against measures and steps violating the rights of Roma, asylum-seekers, migrants, transgender people and human rights defenders.
  • In June 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union condemned Hungary for introducing discriminatory and unjustified restrictions on foreign donations to civil society organisations, prompting controversial reactions from Hungarian government representatives.

The Information Note is available here:

Information note on certain rule of law developments in Hungary between May-July 2020