Hungary must do more for the protection of refugees, the independence of civil society and the judiciary, gender equality and in the area of women’s rights, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner said in a report released in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
“Human rights violations in Hungary have a negative effect on the whole protection system and the rule of law. They must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” Dunja Mijatovic said in the report she prepared on the basis of her visit to Hungary in February this year.
Hungarian legislation on immigration and asylum “undermines” the integration of refugees who have been granted asylum, the commissioner said, calling on the government to end the “crisis situation due to mass migration“.
Measures implemented under the law are not justified by the number of asylum seekers currently entering Hungary and the EU, she said, and called on the government to refrain from using anti-migrant rhetoric and campaigns.
The commissioner expressed concern over the “arbitrary nature of detention” of asylum seekers, including children, in the transit zones, calling on Hungarian authorities to work out alternative solutions.
Further, Mijatovic criticised recent legislation on civil society, calling some of the provisions “exceptionally vague” and “arbitrary”. She said that recent legislative measures imposing restrictions on civil society “have stigmatised and criminalised NGO activities which are fully legitimate in a democratic society,” calling for the legislation to be repealed.
She called on the Hungarian government to discontinue “intimidation, stigmatisation and smear campaigns” targeting NGOs and create a legal and social environment that allows these organisations to operate in line with human rights standards.
The commissioner noted that a series of reforms of the judiciary in Hungary during the 2010s had drawn concern about their effects on the independence of the judiciary. She stressed that it was essential for the rule of law that the checks and balances established for the exercise of the broad powers of the head of the National Judicial Office be fully observed in the ordinary court system.
Concerning the future system of administrative courts, Mijatovic urged strengthening “judicial self-governance” with a view to offsetting the “extensive powers of the justice minister”.
She said she had found backsliding in gender equality to the effect of a “strikingly low” representation of women in politics and the close association of women’s issues with family affairs in government policy.
“The authorities should address the unequal representation of women in public life through positive measures and take determined action to eradicate gender stereotypes in educational materials,” Mijatovic said.
The commissioner urged Hungarian authorities to ratify the CoE’s 2011 Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.