EU Watch

Hungary Restricts People's Right to Protest

The space for public protests and assembly is severely limited under a new law recently adopted by the Hungarian Parliament.

by Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

In a detailed professional analysis, Liberties member the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) collected all the aspects of a new legislation the organizations believes will make it more difficult for Hungarian citizens to protest.

No more court protests?

One of the main issues raised by the HCLU is that under the law, police would be given the power to make many arbitrary decisions, while a good law should not make the freedom of assembly dependent on the good will of an authority subordinated to the government.

The NGO resents the fact that, in banning protests that could hinder traffic, the new act represents a step back to laws that existed before Hungary's accession to the European Union, which also gave rise to abuses by the police.

Under the new law, the HCLU is concerned that it may no longer be possible to organize protests in front of court buildings.

The current cause for prohibiting such a demonstration - severe threat to the normal functioning of the courts - would be replaced by a definition that allows for a much broader scope of deliberation. From now on, it will be enough to show that "there are grounds for believing a protest may directly, unnecessarily and disproportionately interfere with the functioning of the courts" in order to ban it.

Hold Hungary accountable

A further problem is that the new act gives police the power to check and search all the people present at a demonstration, even if they are protesting peacefully, when there are just a few participants that police judge to be too aggressive. Provocateurs, in turn, could more easily disturb a protest pretending they are journalists, as the organizers would risk misdemeanor by excluding a journalist from the demonstration.

By and large, the HCLU maintains that, while clarifying several controversial issues, the new act on the right to assembly is prone to bring about a much more uncertain situation than the present one.

It is, of course, important to protect the freedom of assembly, and the Hungarian government will be held accountable by the Court of Human Rights for violating this right by banning protests.

"We will do our best to make this happen," the HCLU says.

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