- EU action shows ‘intimidation campaign’ against those defending asylum-seekers will not be tolerated
Responding to a decision by the European Commission to refer Hungary’s “Stop Soros” legislation to the Court of Justice of the European Union and to launch a new infringement procedure against Hungary for denying food to people in the border area with Serbia, Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions office said:
“Today’s decision makes it clear that the Hungarian authorities’ intimidation campaign against those who challenge their xenophobic laws and policies will not be tolerated. It also sends an unambiguous message to all member states that laws, such as ‘Stop Soros’, that flagrantly breach human rights, will be challenged at every level.
“By criminalizing the lawful work of activists and NGOs to protect the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, this law risks having a chilling effect on the important work that they do. But despite the serious threat, Amnesty International, other organizations and individuals committed to human rights have not been cowed and will continue to make their voices heard.
“This new infringement procedure also exposes the appalling treatment the authorities use to deter migrants and refugees from seeking safety in Hungary, including not giving food to rejected asylum seekers in the border zone.”
- A Constitutional Crisis in the Hungarian Judiciary
“The Hungarian judiciary is facing a kind of ‘constitutional crisis’ since May 2018 while “checks and balances, which are crucial to ensuring judicial independence, have been further weakened within the ordinary court system”. These are findings by the European Association of Judges and the European Commission, both of which are following with concern the deterioration of the independence of Hungarian courts.
Beyond growing attempts by Hungarian authorities to exert political control over independent institutions, including courts, the independence of the judiciary in Hungary is severely threatened by a prolonged conflict between key judicial actors that is jeopardizing the effective oversight of court administration. The person responsible for court administration, the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO) is not cooperating with the judicial oversight body, resulting in a “constitutional crisis”. This oversight body, the National Judicial Council, found that the NJO President had breached the law multiple times regarding recruitment and promotion of judges, hence it requested the Parliament to dismiss the NJO President. However, on 11 June 2019, the Parliament’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority voted to keep her in office.
At the same time, the Government is planning to set up a heavily government-controlled administrative court system that will be separate from the ordinary courts. The new court system will have jurisdiction over taxation, public procurement and other economic matters, election, freedom of assembly, asylum and certain other human rights issues, as well as all kinds of decisions taken by public administrative authorities. Several domestic and international actors have expressed concerns over these changes in recent months, such as the European Commission, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges.
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