Open letter to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights

Author: An open letter by various Hungarian Civil Organisations Original title: Nyílt levél az alapvető jogok biztosának
Publication: Various,e.g. amnesty.hu Date: 12:00 11/09/2015

To László Székely, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights
Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights

Dear Mr. Commissioner,

A constantly deepening human rights’ crisis is in full swing in Hungary as it is in some other countries as well. The plight of those entering the European Union in Hungary (most of whom intend to claim asylum in one of the EU member states and who will be referred to as refuge seekers from now on), makes a series of breaches against fundamental rights very likely.

Within the territory of Hungary, everyone has a right to the fundamental rights named in Hungary’s Constitution and in international treaties Hungary has signed, regardless of citizenship or country of origin. According to the Constitution, the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights ensures the observation of fundamental rights inasmuch as he/she examines controversial issues reported to him/her and proposes general or individual correction measures. You lead a constitutional institute created and funded by the Hungarian state especially and primarily to protect fundamental human rights.

We, NGO’s and volunteer groups active in refugee care and legal aid, were only informed of your activity from a Tuesday article[1].

In our view, the way the present human rights’ crisis is being handled and reacted to will have a direct impact on the legitimacy of the Ombudsman as an institution. If it does not fulfill its role as a protector of fundamental rights, it looses its legitimacy.

We think it is essential that the ombudsman has an active role in assessing the plight of the refuge seekers arriving in Hungary as well as in the activities of the authorities and the restrictions of rights of those aiding refuge seekers.

We are of the opinion that an investigation should be launched of the Office’s own activity because a possible breach of fundamental rights has been suggested in connection with the activities of several authorities. This comprehensive investigation should include recently adopted bills and regulations as well as those currently awaiting adoption. Some of these bills and regulatios make it impossible, according to professional organizations, for refuge seekers to be granted protection in Hungary[2], introduce restrictions of rights without a Constitutional justification[3] and demolish the harmony between Hungarian legislation and the country’s committments in international treaties. We are convinced several regulations breach fundamental rights, especially with the lack of guarantee of due procedure and restrictions of rights without Constitutional justification. We consequently propose to launch an investigation by the Constitutional Court.

We consider this insufficient, however.

According to a news article yesterday an investigation is under way. There were no further details provided however, because the outcome of the procedure could be influenced by a publication of partial findings. This remains woefully little when babies and children seeking refuge from war lie in 4 degrees Celsius weather surrounded by a police cordon in the middle of nowhere, without heat, water or electricity.

The police themselves are uncertain of the legal procedure and this too hinders effective action. According to the law on the role of the Commissioner for Fundammental Rights, onsite inspections can be held in certain cases without notice. The employee conducting the examination can furthermore immediately propose suggestions if he/she has substantial reason to believe that delaying action would lead to violation of the fundamental rights of a greater group of individuals. We are of the opinion that the crisis is acute and an ongoing voilation of the fundamental rights of refuge seekers warrants constant monitoring of their places of residence.

We request that you and your co-workers conduct onsite checks to help refuge seekers excersize their rights and to ensure their access to basic services.

There are several tools at hand apart from those named in the law on the role of the Commissioner of Fundamental Rights. In our view, you can raise your voice publicly to prevent the further violation of fundamental rights. You can draw attention to the fact hate mongering severely injures human dignity as well as the duties of the Hungarian state in ensuring conditions compatible with human dignity, including ensuring due procedure and access to basic services.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman has the right to express his views in Parliament at any time. We ask that you excercise this right during the discussion of the T/5985 bill on the amendment of the Law on the Protection of Hungary’s Borders and Handling Mass Migration.

Budapest, 10th September 2015.

Orsolya Jeney, director, Amnesty International Hungary

Stefania Kapronczay, managing director, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU/TASZ)

András Kováts, director, Refuge Association for Helping Migrants

András Léderer, volunteer, Migration Aid

Tamás Léderer, volunteer, Migration Aid

Márta Pardavi, associate president, Hungarian Helsinki Committee

Diána Szántó, director, Artemisszo Foundation

Dóra Zempléni, Refuge Association for Helping Migrants and volunteer at Migration Aid

[RCH translation note: one article out of three referred to by the text had previously been translated by us, and its English version is linked to point [3].

Links to the other two articles in Hungarian only: 

[1] http://nol.hu/belfold/menekultugy-az-ombudsman-mar-vizsgalodik-1561869

[2]http://helsinki.hu/itt-hamarosan-„jogi-hatarzas-epul”-–-mi-kell-tudni-a-menedekjogi-szabalyozas-valtozasarol ]

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