Despite an intense international and national outcry the Hungarian Parliament with a two third majority on March 30 approved Bill T/9790 extending indefinitely the Covid-19 Protection Act allowing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree, effectively with no political oversight.
Beyond granting Prime Minister Orban the right to rule by decree it also provides new tools to suppress media and public, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee states: “the law creates two new crimes. Anyone who publicizes false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public – or that alarm or agitate that public – could be punished by up to five years in prison. Anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.”
Countless international actors and institutions including the Commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, Council of Europe Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties have expressed deep concern about the Hungarian measures. At national level civil society has warned of the consequences of a rule by decree and 100,000 people have joined online protests.
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee stated after the vote: “Calls to enact clearly necessary constitutional guarantees (a sunset clause, well-defined mandate, easy access to and a short time-limit for in-merit decisions of the Constitutional Court) were ignored, although these would have made the government’s proposal acceptable for the political opposition and international stakeholders. This is a missed opportunity when in the current COVID-19 crisis the Hungarian government stresses the importance of national unity. It is also difficult to understand why the government did not make any reasonable compromises if, as it claims, it has no intentions to exploit the unlimited mandate given by the law.”
For further information:
- ECRE, Hungary: Proposed Law to Extend the State of Emergency Indefinitely, March 2020
- AIDA, Country Report Hungary, 2019 Update, March 2020
- ECRE, Shots Fired, Arrests and Violent Push Back Reported at the Serbian Hungarian Border, January 2020
- ECRE, Hungary: Commission Takes Next Step Regarding Non-provision of Food in Transit Zones, October 2019
- ECRE, ECtHR: Freedom of the Press to Report on the Living Conditions in Reception Centres, October 2019
- ECRE, Hungary: Government Extends the “State of Crisis due to Mass Migration”, September 2019
- AIDA, Hungary: New police department takes over responsibility for asylum, 19 June 2019
- ECRE, Hungarian Helsinki Committee Update Reveals Continued Violations in Transit Zones, April 2019
- ECRE, Hungary Gives Afghan Families ‘an Offer You Can’t Refuse’, May 2019
- ECRE, Hungary: Constitutional Court fails to give sufficient protection to people and organisations working to protect the rights of asylum seekers, March 2019
- HHC/ECRE, Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry, 8 February 2019
- ECRE, Editorial: Any opposition is too much for Orbán, 1 June 2018
Photo: (CC) European People’s Party, November 2018
This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.