Annual Report: Hungary 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Hungary 2010

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Head of state László Sólyom
Head of government Gordon Bajnai (replaced Ferenc Gyurcsány in March)
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 10 million
Life expectancy 73.3years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 9/8 per 1,000
Adult Literacy 98.9 per cent

A radical right-wing organization Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard) organized a series of marches in towns with a Romani population in eastern Hungary. Violent attacks against Roma continued.

Background

The year was marked by political and economic upheaval that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, whose cabinet was replaced by the interim government of Gordon Bajnai. Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary), known as Jobbik, an extreme right-wing political party with a strong anti-Roma and an increasingly anti-Semitic agenda, gained three seats at European Parliament elections in June.

In May, Hungary was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and assumed its membership in June. The 20 billion euro emergency loan from international financial institutions and the EU imposed conditions on the government: it had to cut public sector wages, pensions, social benefits, and other government spending.

In July, the Budapest Court of Appeal issued a legally binding ruling banning Magyar Gárda, an organization linked to the political party Jobbik. The court ruled that Magyar Gárda's activities overstepped its rights as an association and curtailed liberties of the Roma. Later in July, Jobbik announced the relaunch of Magyar Gárda, and one of its newly elected members of the European Parliament wore a Magyar Gárda uniform to the first parliamentary session in Brussels. In December, the Supreme Court upheld the Budapest Court of Appeal ruling banning Magyar Gárda.

In September, the Prime Minister announced that Hungary would accept one detainee from the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, who would participate in an 18-month integration programme. A Palestinian detainee from Guantánamo Bay was transferred to Hungary on 1 December.

Racism

In February, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance expressed concerns about a sharp rise in racism in public discourse. It also reiterated from previous reports that Roma in Hungary continued to face discrimination in access to employment, education and housing. In October, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the rise of extremism, and appealed to all political party leaders to ensure that no xenophobic or anti-Roma statements be made in the 2010 parliamentary election campaign.

Violent attacks against Roma continued. The Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation, a police agency investigating serious crimes, strengthened a special task force to 120 officers to investigate a series of attacks against the Romani community.

  • Róbert Csorba and his son, aged five, were killed in Tatárszentgyörgy in February. After an initial examination, the local police announced that they had been found dead after a fire caused by an electrical fault in their house. Later that same day, however, the police acknowledged that evidence of gunshot wounds had been found on the bodies, but only opened a murder investigation 10 hours later. In August, the Minister of Justice stated that a disciplinary procedure against local police officers had been launched. In November, the Independent Police Complaints Commission examining the police investigation of the killings in Tatárszentgyörgy concluded that the local police had seriously violated the fundamental rights of the victims of the attack to an effective investigation.
  • Jen? Kóka, a 54-year-old Romani man, was killed in Tiszalök's Roma neighbourhood in April. He was reportedly shot dead as he left his home to start the night shift in the local chemical factory where he worked. The police stated there were similarities between Jen? Kóka's case and the earlier attacks against the Romani community.
  • Mária Balogh, a 45-year-old Romani woman, was shot dead and her 13-year-old daughter seriously injured in the village of Kisléta in August. Later that month, police detained four men suspected of this killing and at least five other deadly attacks on Romani people, including the killing of Róbert Csorba and his son, and Jen? Kóka. All four suspects denied involvement in the attacks and were being held in pretrial detention at the end of the year. The Chief of National Police said in August that they had evidence linking the suspects to acts of deadly violence against the Romani community between November 2008 and August 2009, and that racism appeared to have been the main motive. The NGO European Roma Rights Centre, however, documented the killings of nine Roma in the same period.

In September, about 400 Romani women initiated legal proceedings against Oszkár Molnár, a Member of Parliament of the opposition Fidesz party and Mayor of Edelény, over his alleged defamatory remarks on Romani women. He was also widely criticized by NGOs, other politicians and the media for his anti-Semitic comments during a local TV interview in October.

Discrimination – Roma

Forced sterilizations

  • In February, after eight years of national and international legal proceedings, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour announced that the Ministry would provide A.S. with financial compensation for sterilizing her without her consent on 2 January 2001.

Violence against women and girls

  • The highly publicized case of Zsanett E. continued. In January the Budapest Prosecutor started an investigation into allegations that Zsanett E. had falsely accused five police officers of rape. However, as a substitutive criminal proceeding filed by Zsanett E. in 2008 was still pending, the investigation against her should not have been opened. The prosecutor's investigation against Zsanett E. was therefore suspended.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

On 5 September, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride march took place in Budapest with adequate police protection and no incidents reported during the march. However, a young woman was allegedly attacked by two or three anti-gay protesters after the march; she suffered injuries on her head and arms. The Budapest Police Department started an investigation into the incident, having classified it as "violence against a member of a social group" despite the amendments made in February to the criminal code introducing new crimes of homophobic and other hate-related attacks. Following calls by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the police reported that investigations would proceed treating the attack under the new provisions of the criminal code.

Amnesty International visit/report

An Amnesty International delegate visited Hungary in September.

Romani woman shot dead in Hungary (4 August 2009)