Hungary Ignores Calls For Respect of Human Rights
Hungary has defied widespread calls by civil society organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders, to respect human rights standards in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak.
Last Monday (30 March), Hungary’s parliament passed the controversial Law on Protection against the Coronavirus bill, allowing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree for an indefinite period, and to jail anybody deemed to be publishing ‘fake news’ by up to five years. In the days prior, Civil Rights Defenders condemned the bill on the grounds that it is an attack on the rule of law and democracy, and presents numerous threats to human rights in the country.
If there were any doubts that Orban’s already-authoritarian government would use its newfound powers to further suppress human rights, and not the coronavirus, they were quashed immediately.
Namely, in one of its first moves, the government tabled a bill outlawing legal gender recognition which is a serious and permanent attack on the rights of Trans people. The following day, on Tuesday, it hinted it would use emergency powers to push educational reform by perusing an appalling new curriculum that will rewrite history books by promoting national pride, and making anti-Semitic authors compulsory reading. Coupled with the restrictions on media freedoms, the freedom of expression and the indefinite emergency rule, these measures are a clear overreach of emergency powers and a grave threat to democracy.
By stark contrast, Orban’s government has taken a soft approach to actually containing the virus, with Hungary testing fewer than 20,000 citizens, proportionally one of the lowest totals in the EU.
20 EU Member States have reacted in a joint-statement that they are “deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures”. However, the statement’s authors lacked courage to call out any country by name, thus creating a loophole for Hungary to shamelessly became a signatory itself.
We find the measures taken by the Hungarian government totally unacceptable and will continue to monitor abuses and call them out until human rights are fully respected. We also call upon EU institutions to stand up and join us in condemning Member States whenever democracy and the rule of law are under threat, not least throughout this unprecedented crisis.
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