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TITLE: HUNGARY HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 HUNGARY Hungary is a parliamentary democracy with a freely elected legislative assembly. Prime Minister Gyula Horn, the leader of the Hungarian Socialist (formerly Communist) Party, heads a coalition Government which was formed after the 1994 national elections. The state internal and external security services report to a minister without portfolio, and the police report to the Interior Minister. There continued to be credible reports of police abuse. The new Socialist-led Government remains committed to the transition to a market economy. About three-quarters of Hungary's trade is with advanced industrial countries, and the private sector provides over half of the gross domestic product. However, the privatization process moved more slowly than anticipated, and living standards continued to fall for most of the population. Unemployment is approximately 11 percent for the economy as a whole and about 70 percent in the Roma community. Services, trade, and government employ about 45 percent of the labor force, and industry nearly 30 percent. Major exports include raw materials, semifinished goods, and chemicals (40 percent); consumer goods (22 percent); and food and agriculture (20 percent). Although the Government generally respects constitutionally provided human rights and civil liberties, the law does not ensure due process in all cases. Prosecutors may request what amounts to unlimited pretrial detention. Police may enter private residences to check foreigners' identification without warrants. Police searching for illegal aliens resorted to widespread raids, detaining those who did not show appropriate documents and harassing others. Despite the print media's relatively high degree of independence, the Government influences state-owned television and radio, which dominate the airwaves. Although the Government does not systematically repress the Roma population, police continued to harass and abuse Roma. Societal discrimination against Roma continued to be widespread. However, there were fewer anti-Semitic and racist incidents and skinhead attacks, largely due to the decrease in the number of foreign students in the country. A new law designed to strengthen the rights of ethnic minorities went into effect during 1994. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There were no reports of such killings. The 1992 case of the park ranger accused of killing two Roma was appealed to the Supreme Court. In 1994 the Court found the ranger guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. b. Disappearance There were no reports of disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment No known instances of torture occurred. Police, however, continued to harass and physically abuse Roma. In one case of particularly degrading treatment, a dozen Budapest police without a warrant entered an apartment where Roma families were celebrating a child's birthday and began beating the women and yelling racist obscenities. Police also harassed and mistreated foreigners. After being given three breathalyzer tests at a police checkpoint in Budapest, an American citizen was taken to a police station. When the police produced a needle, the American citizen objected and requested a translator. According to the citizen, the police refused to provide a translator and forced his compliance with the taking of blood samples by choking and beating him into unconsciousness. A medical report confirmed that the citizen had been beaten. In a Budapest restaurant frequented by foreigners, more than a dozen armed police rounded up guests and demanded identity papers. When the Chinese owner of the restaurant protested, the police threatened to beat him. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Police must inform suspects upon arrest of the charges against them and may hold them for a maximum of 72 hours before filing charges. The law requires that all suspects be allowed access to counsel prior to questioning and throughout all subsequent proceedings. The authorities must provide counsel for juveniles, the indigent, and the mentally handicapped. The authorities respect these rights to counsel. There is no bail system; however, depending upon the nature of the crime, the court may release the accused upon his or her own recognizance. Pretrial detention, based on a warrant issued by a judge, is initially limited to 1 year while criminal investigations are in progress; it may be extended indefinitely on the prosecutor's motion. In 1993, 49 people had been held for more than 1 year. No figures are yet available for 1994. In the eastern town of Debrecen, several policemen without a warrant entered the apartment of foreign medical students and took 10 who had only their student identity cards to the police station. The police did not allow the students to make telephone calls and did not release them until their friends were able to produce their passports several hours later. The Penal Code does not provide for exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Under the Constitution, the courts are responsible for the administration of justice, with the Supreme Court exercising policy control over the operations and judicature of all courts. There are three levels of courts in the current system. Original jurisdiction in most matters rests with the local courts. Appeals of their rulings may be made to county courts or to the Budapest municipal court, all of which also have original jurisdiction in some matters. The highest level of appeal is the Supreme Court, whose determinations in nonconstitutional issues are binding. There is no jury system; hence, judges are the final arbiters. In the case of military trials, appeals also may be addressed to the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court is charged with reviewing the constitutionality of laws and statutes brought before it. Parliament elects the Court's members to 9-year terms which may be renewed. No judge or member of the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court may belong to a political party or engage in political activity. The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the authorities respect this right in practice. In selected cases, however, judges may agree to a closed trial to protect the accused or the crime victim, such as in some rape cases. Military trials follow civil law and may be closed if state, service, or moral grounds so justify. In all cases, sentencing must take place publicly. Defendants are entitled to counsel during all phases of criminal proceedings and are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Judicial proceedings are generally investigative rather than adversarial in nature. Many human rights and Roma organizations allege that Roma receive less than equal treatment in court. Specifically, they argue that Roma are kept in pretrial detention more often and for longer periods of time than non-Roma. Because official records do not contain the ethnic identity of offenders, there is no statistical support for this allegation. In the absence of a law against hate crimes, skinhead assaults against minorities continue to be treated as hooliganism (a misdemeanor), and sentences are light. President of the Republic Arpad Goncz has proposed a law which would stiffen the penalties for hate crimes, but Parliament has not yet acted on this proposal. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The law provides that the prosecutor's office may issue search warrants independently. Police must carry out house searches in the presence of two witnesses and must prepare a written inventory of items removed from the premises. Wiretapping, which may be done for national security reasons and for legitimate criminal investigations, requires a court's permission. These provisions are observed in practice. A search warrant is not necessary, however, in cases in which the police are making checks on the validity of the identity papers of foreigners. In a series of raids in September, police conducted arbitrary identity checks in restaurants and residences frequented by foreigners. In Budapest, a dozen policemen went to the residence of an American business executive at 2:45 a.m. to demand identification. The businessman was not home. The policemen left after the businessman's wife produced the appropriate documents for herself and her small children. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Some Budapest dailies are still partially state owned, but a broad spectrum of print media enjoy considerable freedom. Newspaper and periodical subscriptions are obtained through the government-controlled postal system, however, which has led to charges by certain journals that their circulation is impeded for political reasons. Parliament's continued failure to enact a broadcast bill meant that the Government retained the ability to exert political pressure on the electronic media. There is one private national radio station and one national radio station in which the Government maintains a minority share. There are no private national television stations. State-owned Hungarian Radio and Hungarian Television continued to enjoy a near monopoly of nationwide broadcasting, and the Prime Minister controlled their budgets. During the spring election campaign, the progovernment bias of the electronic media's news coverage was often apparent. Following the national elections, the outgoing Prime Minister dismissed the acting heads of state-run radio and television, and the incoming Prime Minister appointed replacements. The new management rehired and compensated many of those dismissed by the former management for political reasons and then dismissed, apparently also for political reasons, some 15 to 20 people. The opposition contends that the number of persons dismissed for political reasons is now much higher, but the exact number is subject to dispute. While some limited-range local licenses have been issued, partisan wrangling and pressures from television and radio unions and employee associations continued to block the availability of national broadcast frequencies and the privatization of existing state channels. (However, over half of the country's households have access to satellite television, cable, or both.) In September the Prime Minister said his party was committed to continued state ownership of the two existing national television channels. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association There are essentially no restrictions on peaceful public gatherings. In general, the Government does not require permits for assembly except in instances when a public gathering is to take place near sensitive installations, such as military facilities, embassies, and key government buildings. Police may sometimes alter or revoke permits, but there is no evidence that they abuse this right. Any 10 or more persons may form an association, provided that it does not commit criminal offenses or disturb the rights of others. Associations with charters and elected officers must register with the courts. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and members of all faiths are allowed to practice their religion freely. There is no officially preferred religion, but only officially approved churches receive state subsidies. The Government distributed over $28 million in state subsidies among approximately three dozen churches. Religious orders and schools have regained some property confiscated by the Communist regime. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation There are no restrictions on the movement of citizens within or outside Hungary, including on the rights of emigration and repatriation. The Government may delay but not deny emigration for those who have significant court-assessed debts or who possess state secrets. It requires that foreign students from countries not having a visa waiver agreement with Hungary obtain exit visas every time they leave the country. The fighting in the former Yugoslavia resulted in a continued flow of refugees into Hungary. While 7,110 refugees are registered within Hungary, the Government estimates that over 30,000 more are unregistered. Most of the refugees are in private housing, with only around 2,000 housed in refugee camps. Hungary is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and to the 1967 Protocol, with a caveat that it will grant refugee status only to European nationals. Prospective refugees who seek only to transit to Western Europe are encouraged to return to their countries of departure. Illegal aliens, mostly non-European, are housed at the detention center at Kerepestarcsa pending their deportation or their qualification for resettlement in a third country by the local office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While police seek the timely deportation of detainees who do not qualify for refugee status, a shortage of funds and the detainees' lack of proper documentation, such as passports, often result in lengthy stays. The UNHCR reports that conditions at the camp are acceptable. Newspapers have reported that Serbian refugees at the camp have threatened other residents. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Citizens age 18 and over have the right to change their government through national elections held at least every 4 years. The Parliament's members are elected through a complex voting procedure for individuals and party lists. In the 1994 national elections, the Hungarian Socialist Party won an absolute majority and formed a coalition Government with the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats under Prime Minister Gyula Horn. Four parties, ranging from moderate to conservative, constitute an active opposition in Parliament. There are no legal impediments to women's participation in government or the political process; however, only 43 of 386 parliamentary deputies are women. There are few women in leadership positions in the Government or the political parties. Several minorities are represented in Parliament. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights Numerous human rights organizations operate without government restriction or interference. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) report that the Government is generally responsive to their requests for information. However, individual police stations are reportedly uncooperative at times, particularly in cases involving Roma. There is also a 25-member parliamentary Committee for Human, Minority, and Religious Rights. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Women Legally, women have the same rights as men, including identical inheritance and property rights. While there is no overt discrimination against women, the number of women in middle or upper managerial positions in business and government is low. Women are heavily represented in the judiciary and in the medical and teaching professions. The law does not prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. While there are laws against rape, it is often unreported for cultural reasons. Police attitudes towards victims of sexual abuse reportedly are often unsympathetic. According to women's organizations, the vast majority of rape and abuse cases go unreported. Rape within marriage is illegal according to Hungarian law, but proving it is extremely difficult in practice. According to the National Alliance of Hungarian Women, there were 468 reported rapes (211 by spouses) and 271 reported cases of assaults on women. Women's groups report that making women aware of their rights is a major problem. In the fall, Hungarian television without explanation canceled "Ombudsno," the only television program concerned with legal and social issues affecting women. Children The Government is committed to children's rights. Education is mandatory through age 16, and employment is illegal below age 16. According to the National Alliance of Hungarian Women, an NGO, there were 528 reported cases of violence against children in 1994, 190 of which took place within the family. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities The 1993 law on ethnic and minority rights establishes the concept of collective rights of minorities and states that minorities need special rights in order to preserve their ethnic identities. It explicitly permits organized forms of limited self-government in areas where ethnic groups constitute a majority, and states that the establishment of self-governing bodies must be made possible in localities where an ethnic group constitutes less than a majority of the population. Further, the new law permits associations, movements, and political parties based upon an ethnic or national character, and mandates unrestricted use of ethnic languages. Only those ethnic groups which have lived within the country's present borders for at least 100 years and who are citizens may obtain recognized status under the new law. On this basis, the law specifically grants minority status to 13 ethnic or national groups. Other groups may petition the Chairman of Parliament for inclusion if they comprise at least 1,000 citizens and have their own language and culture. In December Hungary held its first elections for minority local self-governments, which resulted in the formation of over 600 minority local bodies. With funding from the central budget and logistical support from local governments, these bodies will have as their primary responsibility influencing and overseeing local matters affecting the minorities. In 1995, they will also delegate electors to their own national assembly, forming the national minority self-government. In November Parliament passed a law providing for three ombudsmen, one of whom would be specifically charged with defending minority rights. The ombudsmen are expected to begin their work in the spring of 1995. Roma constitute about 4 percent of the population, with Germans, the second largest minority group, at about 2 percent. There are smaller communities of Slovaks, Croats, Romanians, Poles, Greeks, Serbs, Slovenes, Armenians, Ruthenians, and Bulgarians, all of which are also recognized as minorities. Education is available to varying degrees in almost all minority languages. There are minority-language print media, and the state-run radio broadcasts 2-hour daily programs in the mother tongue of major nationalities, i.e., Slovak, Romanian, German, Croatian, and Serbian. State-run television carries a 30-minute program for the larger minority groups, complemented by 5-minute weekly news bulletins. Conditions of life within the Roma community are significantly poorer than among the general population. Roma suffer from discrimination and racist attacks and are considerably less educated, with lower than average incomes and life expectancy. The Roma unemployment rate is estimated to be 70 percent, more than six times the national average of 11 percent. With unemployment benefits exhausted and inadequate social services, there are reports that Roma families, including young children, are forced to resort to stealing food to eat. Roma also constitute a majority of the prison population. The Government sponsors programs both to preserve Roma languages and cultural heritage and to assist social and economic assimilation. Nonetheless, widespread popular prejudice continues. In a November incident in the town of Gyongyos, a group of skinheads threw Molotov cocktails in the windows of a Roma family's house and burned it down. One of the victims, who was taken into custody for attacking two youths whom the police said were innocent, told reporters that the police had forced him to change his statement. Police sometimes abuse Roma. Religious Minorities The Jewish community is generally well assimilated, and there were few anti-Semitic incidents. Jews are well represented in politics, the media, culture, and business. During the election campaign, swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were spray-painted on posters, and in a notable incident, a bus which took Jewish youngsters to a Jewish summer camp at the town of Szarvas was spray-painted with swastikas. In a more serious incident in March, two skinheads stabbed a Jewish passenger in the leg on a Budapest subway. The case has not yet come to trial. The number of assaults on Jews by skinheads and neo-Nazi sympathizers continued to decline. The Martin Luther King Organization (MLKO), which documents assaults on foreigners of color recorded 16 such incidents in 1994, down from 20 in 1993 and 78 in 1992. MLKO sources commented, however, that they believe many cases go unreported and that the decline in attacks is primarily due to the lower number of foreign students in Hungary. There have been some reports of societal discrimination against persons of color. People with Disabilities The Government does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government services for people with disabilities. Services to the disabled are limited, and many buildings are not wheelchair accessible. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The 1992 Labor Code recognizes the right of unions to organize and bargain collectively and permits trade union pluralism. Workers have the right to associate freely, choose representatives, publish journals, and openly promote members' interests and views. With the exception of military personnel and the police, they also have the right to strike. Under a separate 1992 law, public servants may negotiate working conditions, but the final decision on increasing salaries rests with Parliament. There are no restrictions on trade union contacts with international organizations, and unions have developed a wide range of ties with European and international trade union bodies. The largest labor union organization in Hungary is the National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions, the successor to the former monolithic Communist union, with over 800,000 members. The Democratic League of Independent Unions and the Federation of Workers' Councils, have around 250,000 and 150,000 members respectively. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Labor Code permits collective bargaining at the enterprise and industry level, although the practice is not widespread. There is a willingness among labor organizations to cooperate with one another, and it is particularly evident in their relationship in forums such as the National Interest Reconciliation Council (ET), which provides a forum for tripartite consultation among representatives from management, employees, and the Government. The ET discusses issues such as wage hikes and the setting of the minimum wage, which is centrally negotiated within the ET in order to control inflation. Individual trade unions and management may negotiate higher levels (but not lower ones) at the plant level. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for drafting labor-related legislation, while special labor courts enforce labor laws. The decisions of these courts may be appealed to the civil court system. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against unions and their organizers. The Ministry of Labor enforces this provision. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the Ministry of Labor enforces this prohibition. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The National Labor Center enforces the minimum age of 16 years, with exceptions for apprentice programs, which may begin at 15. There does not appear to be any significant abuse of this statute. Education is compulsory through age 16. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The ET establishes the legal minimum wage, which is subsequently implemented by Ministry of Labor decree. The current minimum wage, $95 a month (10,500 Forints) is insufficient to provide an adequate standard of living for workers and their families. Many workers, therefore, supplement their primary employment with second jobs. The Labor Code specifies various conditions of employment, including termination procedures, severance pay, maternity leave, trade union consultation rights in some management decisions, annual and sick leave entitlements, and labor conflict resolution procedures. Under the Code, the official workday is set at 8 hours; it may vary, however, depending upon the nature of the industry. A 24-hour rest period is required during the week. Labor courts and the Ministry of Labor enforce occupational safety standards set by the Government, but specific safety conditions are not always up to internationally accepted standards. Enforcement of occupational safety standards is not always effective because of the limited resources the Ministry of Labor is able to commit to enforcement. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. (###)
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