AI Criticises Govt For 2017 Human Rights Record

  • 23 Feb 2018 8:04 AM
  • Hungary Matters
AI Criticises Govt For 2017 Human Rights Record
Hungary’s government “cannot be proud” of its human rights record, according to the human rights watchdog Amnesty International’s (AI) 2017 annual report.

Hungary’s performance in preserving human rights has in certain areas deteriorated “even compared to 2016”, AI Hungary head Julia Iván told a press conference.

The report found that the particularly problematic areas are “severe breaches of law against asylum-seekers and migrants, the higher education law harming academic freedom and the persecution and restriction of NGOs.”

In the report, AI wrote: “Hungary reached a new low by passing legislation allowing pushbacks of all people found in an irregular situation in the country and by introducing the automatic detention of asylum-seekers, in blatant breach of EU law.”

The authorities detain asylum seekers indefinitely in the transit zones, including children above the age of 14, Iván said. The number of asylum requests accepted in the transit zones has also fallen to 1 per work day, Iván said.

The Immigration Office grants refuge to 30-40% of asylum seekers, which shows that they are in fact refugees from war zones and not economic migrants, she said.

The trial of Ahmed H., a Syrian man sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for allegedly committing “acts of terror” while participating in a riot by refugees and migrants at the Serbia-Hungary border in September 2015, is also highlighted in the report.

“On appeal, the court found that available evidence had not been properly assessed and ordered a retrial,” the report said. Ahmed H.’s guilt can only be assessed in the face of irrefutable evidence, Iván said.

The report also criticised Hungary’s amendments to its higher education law in April 2017, “widely interpreted as targeting the operations of a particular educational institution, the Central European University (CEU),” as one that severely harms the rights of academic freedom and freedom of association.

Although Hungary has signed the Istanbul Convention against violence against women and against domestic violence, parliament has yet to ratify it, Iván said. This hampers proceedings against domestic violence, she said.

Áron Demeter, AI’s expert on human rights, said the law on the transparency of foreign-funded civil organisations has restricted the playing field for NGOs.

The law is an “unequivocal sign”, Demeter said. Not only has “Hungary adopted hate speech against human rights and NGOs, it was one of the first countries in the region to accept a law against them,” he said.

Commenting on an earlier AI statement calling the “Stop Soros” bill “life threatening”, Iván said that the package, which is currently being debated in parliament, imposes sanctions on civil organisations that strip them from large parts of their funding, make daily operations difficult and gives those in power a chance to dissolve them on short notice.

The real goal is to silence NGOs critical of the government, she said.

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