The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) denounces the unlawful NGO Act, even in its final version. According to the watchdog organization, the bill should not have been adopted at all, as it violates fundamental rights. The organization believes that the most effective way of acting against the unlawful provisions is not to abide by the law. They underline that, given that their economic management is already fully transparent, this would not violate anyone’s rights or the demand of transparency.
HCLU warns that similar laws were adopted in Russia and Israel in the disguise of transparency, which aim at silencing NGOs providing critical services and monitoring the government’s human rights track record. The newly adopted Hungarian NGO Act is a carbon-copy of Putin’s foreign agent law. This law was followed by multiple amendments restricting the rights and activities of NGOs and resulting in 27 organizations closing down since the law was adopted.
NGO Act infringes rights
HCLU holds that the right to the freedoms of speech and of association are infringed by the unlawful act, which also discriminates unconstitutionally against certain civil society organizations. The organization stresses that the current regulations are much more effective in guaranteeing transparency and national security, or acting against money laundering. Transparency is ensured by the requirement from civil society organizations to publish their financial data, also indicating the sources of support, while national security and the fight against money laundering are served not by publicity but by the appropriate functioning of institutions dedicated for such purposes, like the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Hence, HCLU maintains that the requirements set by the new act are both unnecessary and disproportionate.
Based on HCLU’s interpretation, it is not them but the NGO Act that infringes rights. They see the most effective way of acting against the unlawful act is by not following its illegitimate provisions. The organization is ready to exploit all the available legal remedies: should proceedings be initiated against it, HCLU will enforce its rights in court against the act, seeking justice at the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights as well.
'We are not afraid'
The organization reiterates that it has nothing to hide: its management and operations are entirely transparent; anyone may trace, several years back, what kinds of programs have been accomplished, from whose support, and with what budget. HCLU still encourages everybody who wants to live in a country where those in power respect citizens' rights to donate regularly. HCLU’s operation is a lot more transparent now than it would be when stigmatized as an "organization supported from abroad," therefore it will go on informing the public in the current way.
"A part of legal remedies opens up for us only if we do not comply with the requirements of the unlawful act. Unwilling to give up on any means of redress, we have decided not to fulfill the requirements of the unlawful act," said Máté Szabó, HCLU’s director of programs.
"We are aware of the possibility that legal proceedings may be instituted against us. We are not afraid of these: year by year, we represent our clients whose fundamental rights have been violated in hundreds of cases at the Hungarian courts, the Constitutional Court and the Strasbourg Court; we are experienced in such proceedings. In order to help civil society, other foundations and associations, we must ride for a fall, proving on ourselves that the act violates rights. We are convinced that, in the course of lengthy proceedings, the unlawful NGO Act will fail," said Stefánia Kapronczay, HCLU’s executive director.
HCLU’s transparency is served not by being stigmatized as an "organization supported from abroad" but by the fact that it publishes its detailed financial data many years back.
All you need to know about the NGO Act, gathered in one place.
More about the impact of the Russian foreign agent legislation:
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Stefania Kapronczay: +36 70 310 0771
Mate Szabo +36 30 250 3820