The European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, has released a damning report on human rights violations in Hungary.
Commissioner Mijatović and her team visited Hungary between 4 February and 8 February 2019 to compile the report, which focuses on the interconnected issues of Hungarian asylum seeker legislation; gender equality and women’s rights; the independence of the judiciary; and the country’s treatment of human rights defenders. The Commissioner said: “Human rights violations in Hungary have a negative effect on the whole protection system and the rule of law. They must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The report found that Hungary’s legislative framework covering asylum seekers and refugees undermines the legitimate status of refugees in the country, while the Hungarian government’s continued use of anti-immigrant rhetoric and unwarranted declaration of a “crisis situation due to mass immigration” had contributed to xenophobic sentiment among citizens. Hungarian asylum seeker legislation restricting potential asylum seekers’ right to apply to two “transit zones” was found to be a failure on the part of the government to protect asylum seekers and refugees appropriately.
Commissioner Mijatović said: “The government should repeal the new inadmissibility ground for asylum which has resulted in practically systematic rejection of asylum applications. I am also deeply concerned about repeated reports of excessive use of violence by the police during forcible removals of foreign nationals. The authorities should apply alternatives to [systematic] detention [of asylum seekers]. I am also alarmed that many asylum seekers detained in the transit zones under an alien policing procedure have been deprived of food. This practice should stop immediately.”
The Commissioner detailed the ways in which recent legislative measures restricting civil society space in Hungary stigmatise and criminalise legitimate NGO activities, with civil society organisations around the country subjected to smear campaigns and outright intimidation; and expressed concern over the effects of judiciary reforms on the independence of the judiciary. She highlighted the potentially disproportionate powers accorded to the Hungarian Minister of Justice, saying: “The extensive powers of the Minister should be counterbalanced by strengthening judicial self-governance.”
Gender equality in Hungary was found to have decreased, with poor representation of women in the political sphere and low levels of awareness or understanding of violence against women on the part of the police, the judiciary and the wider public. Commissioner Mijatović urged Hungary to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women, saying: “Training about violence against women should be strengthened among the judiciary, prosecutors and the police. There is also a need for broader awareness raising among the public.”