Amnesty 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 released on Thursday morning.

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

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, Ivan said. The number of asylum requests accepted in the transit zones has also fallen to 1 per work days, Ivan said. The Immigration Office grants refuge to 30-40 percent 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, Ivan 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, Ivan said. This hampers proceedings against domestic violence, she said.

Aron 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”, Ivan 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.

Fidesz: Transparency ‘attacking’ anti-migration countries

Transparency International has “attacked” Hungary and Bulgaria, the two countries “which have built border fences against illegal migrants”, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz said on Thursday, commenting on TI’s recent report on global corruption.

The TI report, published on Wednesday, puts Hungary in 66th place (down from 57th last year), as a country which has the second worst corruption in the European Union after Bulgaria.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at a press conference held on a different subject that TI’s corruption report was an “unprecedented attack” motivated solely by “international organisations’ disagreement with Hungary’s policy on migration”. 

“We don’t care about blackmail or pressure; we won’t allow a single illegal migrant to enter,” Szijjarto said, adding that “the fence will stay where it is”. 

Hungary’s score on TI’s index – 0 to 100, with 0 being the most corrupt – was 45, down from 48 a year earlier. Hungary was ranked below the Czech Republic (42nd), Poland (36th) and Slovakia (54th). In a review of the region, the organisation faulted Hungary, Poland and Romania for measures taken by authorities affecting NGOs. It said Hungary’s government had passed a law that “stigmatises NGOs based on their funding structures”.

Source and photo: MTI

 

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