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Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Unfortunately, Hungary does not record violent hate crime statistics. Police, prosecution and judiciary are reluctant to recognise racism as an aggravating circumstance in a crime and the Criminal Code does not contain corresponding provisions. There is also no information about the ethnic composition of victims of such crime. One of the main problems is the fact that Hungarian police are not trained in identifying the nature of hate crime; there are no regulations for police procedures in such cases.

On July 3, 2015 Minority Rights Group published a report on minorities and indigenous peoples of the world. MRG notes that police does not “really” effectively investigate crimes where the victims were Roma. The report indicates that refugees, immigrants, Jews, Muslims and Roma are the most vulnerable groups when it comes to hate crime. A general problem is that victims often have nowhere to turn to. Furthermore, Hungarian legislation against hate crime often punishes minorities rather than protects it.

A lot of hate crime remains unreported due to victims fearing xenophobia on the part of the police. Victims do not receive psychological or legal help. Hungary has serious deficiencies in law enforcement, when it comes to hate crime. This includes the classification of hate crime as domestic violence, the high latency of hate crime due to victims’ distrust towards the police and law enforcement’s reluctance to initiate such proceedings. There is also lack of statistics that would allow judging the extent of such crime. However, the situation is developing in the positive direction.

On January 16, Budapest city court ruled that local police has been persecuting LGBT during the 2012 gay pride event. On September 18, this decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal. In February, Debrecen Court of Appeal sentenced a man to life in prison for murdering a homosexual.

On July 2, Pest District Court sentenced a man to 2 years suspended term for Holocaust denial and denial of the crimes of the communist regime.

On October 18, Budapest Court of Appeal made a final decision to ban the Hungarian Association of Self-Defence for a Better Hungary. The court ruled the organisation illegal after its crimes against the Roma people spanning four years, 2008 – 2012. Fiscal and financial claims against the liquidated organisation must be satisfied before May 16, 2015, when it will be removed from the register.

Nevertheless, there have been some court verdicts that can be considered as condoning xenophobia. On March 24, Gyula prosecutor's office rejected the claim on the prohibition of a xenophobic organisation “Association for a Better Tomorrow”.

On June 19, the court rejected a claim of the historian Tomas Kraus made to the director of the Veritas Research Institute of History Sandor Sakali, who referred to the findings of T. Kraus and said during an interview with ATV that the deportation of Jews from Kamianets-Podilskyi in August of 1941 should be seen by historians as a fact of migration.

Migration legislation is generally complied with, while it should be noted that the modernisation of the Citizenship Law in 2010 has resulted in a sharp increase in new citizens, mainly due to ethnic Hungarians.

By the end of 2014, 670 000 people received citizenship. 66% of new Hungarian citizens were from Trainsylvania, 17% - Vojvodina, 14% - Transcarpathia. On the other hand, around 500 thousand Hungarians immigrated to Western Europe.

In 2013, Hungary experienced a sharp increase in immigration from developing countries. Between January and August 2013, Hungary received 15 000 applications for asylum. In 2014, this number somewhat declined (4 846 people in Q1 and Q2 of 2014 compared to 11 607 over the same period in 2013). This resulted in huge deficits in Hungary’s migration system.

Refugees in Hungary do not receive free legal assistance during their applications; it is currently financed by the EU. Asylum seeker centres are lacking in translators and medical staff.

Regardless of the government’s efforts to make it both physically and legally impossible for asylum-seekers to submit their applications, the frequency of cases where international protection is granted to an applicant has increased since 2015, and in 2017, 1291 persons received refugee status or subsidiary protection. Despite the increase in the number of successful asylum applications, the number of applications submitted to Hungarian authorities fell to 3,115 in 2017 from 29,432 in 2016, and 177,135 in 2015. 44 per cent of the applicants in 2017 were Afghani, 26 per cent Iraqi, and 18 per cent came from Syria.

The government claimed at the time the data was published that it refuses the EU mandatory quotas but is willing to grant international protection to whoever is eligible under the Geneva Convention.

The reason behind the increase in successful applications is that they can only be submitted in transit zones and generally women, families, and children enter the zones, individuals who are much more likely to be granted international protection. However, most applicants only receive subsidiary protection even in cases when they should be granted refugee status because it makes it harder for them to bring their families to the country, as those in the former category need to have a high income, comprehensive health insurance, and separate housing to be able to apply for family reunification.

In 2017 there were cases when the decisions of the courts and authorities condemned discriminatory practices against minorities. For example, three men who beat participants of the Budapest Pride parade in 2013 were convicted of assault, and the court stated that motive was the victims’ sexual and ethnic orientation. The decision, which sent two perpetrators to prison, was legally binding.

The Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (ABJH) ruled that the so-called “strolls” conducted by the BH and supported by the local self-government harassed the local Roma population, and thus the self-government breached the Roma’s right for equal treatment. In 2017, the legally binding decision of a court confirmed the opinion of the Equal Treatment Authority (Egyenlő Bánásmód Hatóság, EBH). The court’s verdict stated that “the rule of law is not only about creating and maintaining some sort of legal order, but certain fundamental values, principles must also be built into this legal order, which needs to be upheld and enforced, and attempts at attacking the rule of law must be averted on the state and local levels as well.” In another case concerning the cooperation of vigilante groups and local self-governments, the Curia ruled that the self-government of Gyöngyöspata harassed the local Roma community by failing to implement measures against the members of the For a Better Future Citizens’ Defence Association (Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület, SzJPE), the Defence Force (Véderő, VE) and the Army of Outlaws (Betyársereg). Another case against local self-governments concerned Mezőkeresztes, where in July 2015 the mayor wrote in the self-government’s own journal that locals should not sell their properties to the Roma.

In 2017, the EBH ruled that the mayor of Mezőkeresztes harassed the Roma and thus breached equal treatment requirements. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (Társaság a Szabadságjogokért, TASZ) welcomed the decision, which proves that the mayor’s opinion published in the local self-government’s journal does not enjoy the right to free speech as he represented the state in this situation, and the state must treat all citizens as equal. The Curia found a provision in Miskolc’s local self-government decree on community coexistence punishing those who live in an accommodation where the living space available to one individual is less than 6m2 to be unconstitutional. The regulation was certainly intended to punish the poor, mainly Roma inhabitants of the city. The Constitutional Court (AB) annulled numerous provisions that discriminate public workers and unnecessarily restrict their private sphere. The law on the Public Works Scheme allowed self-governments to grant opportunities to participate in the scheme if they keep their gardens in order. The AB found that “there are no rational reasons for the legislator to introduce special provisions with their scope restricted specifically to public workers on how one should live their lives.”

State bodies were also active in trying to convince the state and private actors to take action to guarantee equal rights to all citizens. In July 2017, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, László Székely, told the Hungarian news wire agency MTI that “currently, the Hungarian state is not meeting its constitutional and international obligations concerning the quality of and access to education for vulnerable, seriously and multiply disadvantaged students.” Mr Székely warned then Minister for Human Capacities, Zoltán Balog, to implement the necessary measures to remedy the problems he identified, including the clarification of definitions, creating an adequate number of study places for these students, and organising ways to allow disabled students to get to school.

Mr Székely also asked Zoltán Balog to assess child protection services and implement other systemic measures after he found that every third individual taken into child protection is taken from his or her family because of their financial situation (which affects the Roma disproportionately). The commissioner emphasised that the families will continue to live in poverty after their children are taken away, and the children will suffer from serious disadvantages in their adult life because of being torn away from their family.

The Hungarian Equal Treatment Authority dealt with a case involving a ticket conductor only asking to check the ticket of a Roma individual at a train station and disregarding others. The EBH found that the defendant checked the individual's ticket because of his or her Roma origin and skin colour. Courts stepped up against segregation in schools as well. In 2017, the Curia ruled that the Kodály Zoltán Elementary School breached equal treatment requirements by launching segregated classes for Roma students. The verdict condemned the local self-government of Kaposvár as well as the Ministry of Human Capacities, which took over the school in January 2013 but upheld the illegal situation. The school was banned from starting any new classes from the 2017/2018 school year onwards, and thus the school will be closed after the current classes finish their studies.

In 2020, only 12 crimes out of 100 were investigated. It is not known how many of them went to trial. These were mostly crimes involving the desecration of cemeteries, mostly Jewish cemeteries. Not only that, however, in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Budapest District VI. and VII. prosecutor's office charged a hate crime [crime of violence against a member of a community committed with a deadly weapon (article 216, subsection (3) of the Hungarian Criminal Code)] against a man who, after being asked to leave a store due to closure, threatened the owner, an ethnic Chinese man, with racist anti-Chinese language. The perpetrator also pulled out a knife and threatened a customer, who stood up to defend the store owner and chased him outside the store.

In January 2021, the Hungarian Supreme Court ruled that vandalism by the deputy leader of the radical nationalist Mi Hazank, Elod Nowak, of the monument to the Soviet Red Army on Freedom Square in Budapest in 2015 was considered a violent act and did not fall under the right to freedom of expression. In its acquittal, the court stated that, in evaluating the case, it had concluded that the statue was the property of the Budapest Municipal Council and was part of the cultural heritage of the capital.

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