Budapest (MTI) – Human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe Nils Muiznieks has expressed concern over “the populist trend in political discourse in Hungary” in connection with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s recent remarks on the death penalty, among other subjects.
“The idea of reintroducing the death penalty which has been raised by Prime Minister Orban is incompatible with Hungary’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and runs contrary to the values that Europe stands for,” Muiznieks said in a statement sent to MTI on Wednesday.
He also criticised the government’s plans to send out questionnaires to the public on the issues of immigration and terrorism. He said the content of the questionnaires was “unacceptable” for feeding “intolerance against migrants”.
He urged the government to take a “more human rights oriented approach to migration issues.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the head of European Parliament’s liberal group, on Wednesday called on the European People’s Party to withdraw support from Orban.
The EPP, to which Orban’s Fidesz party belongs, said in a tweet that the “death penalty is against EPP values and EU treaties. This is non-negotiable. President Joseph Daul will ask to speak with Viktor Orban to clarify yesterday’s statement”.
A European Commission spokesman said the “abolition of the death penalty is a condition, a requirement to join the EU.” and another source on condition of anonymity gave warning that Hungary could lose its voting rights in the European Council over such a move.
In the wake of a brutal murder of a young tobacconist in southwest Hungary, Orban on Tuesday said that the issue of restoring capital punishment should be “kept on the agenda” as even strict “three strikes” laws and real life sentences have been unable to deter criminals. In response to a report on this issue from Strasbourg, Orban’s press chief said on Wednesday that Orban “stands at the disposal of Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, regarding the death penalty issue”.
Austrian Social Democrat MEP Joerg Leichtfried told a session of the EP on Wednesday morning that Orban’s proposal to raise the issue of capital punishment would fly in the face of European law. He called Orban’s proposal “barbarism”.
On the issue of the questionnaire, Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld has criticised Orban’s remarks on migrants and expressed hope that the central-right European People’s Party would ostracise him.
Hungarian MEP Istvan Ujhelyi, of the opposition Socialists, told Manfred Weber, Bavarian leader of the European People’s Party in the EP, that Orban would be spending “one billion forints on questions that are deceitfully called a national consultation [on migration], yet rather than bringing about a solution it would only stoke animosity to European values.” Weber replied that he considered asking people’s opinion a positive move, but he added that he would query Orban about the issue.
Hungarian MEPs of the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrats issued a statement accusing left-wing MEPs Peter Niedermuller and Ujhelyi of double standards. These MEPs often demand that public opinion be consulted and accuse others of neglecting democratic procedures, yet they have now launched a hypocritical attack against the Hungarian government’s initiative, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said talking about restoring the death penalty should not raise any diplomatic concern. “There are several countries in the world where such a debate is ongoing” or this type of punishment is in force, he told public news channel M1. “In many cases this issue is considered a legitimate one,” he said.