The government has submitted to parliament a proposal to replace Hungary’s assembly law passed in 1989.
The new law, sponsored by Justice Minister László Trócsányi, seeks to ensure the right to “organise or participate in peaceful and unarmed demonstrations, whether licensed or — in exceptional cases — unannounced, held in public areas”.
Under the new law, an event attended by at least two people would qualify as an assembly, if held in public with the aim of expressing opinions on some public affair.
The proposal would ban participation in meetings that have not been granted a licence. Organisers of such events would be in charge of the whole event, and would bear the responsibility of “leaving the venue in the state it was in prior to the event”. The leader of the event would also be obliged to ensure peace and order during the event and have the right to expel people disrupting it.
Participants in such events would be banned from carrying weapons, ammunitions, explosives or any other hazardous substances or from wearing (para-) military attire that may be intimidating or suggest violence. They would not be allowed to wear protective gear or to cover up their faces, according to the proposal.
Plans to hold public events shall be reported to the police at least 48 hours before their scheduled start time.
Particularly urgent meetings and spontaneous events may be exempted from this rule. Demonstrations planned to be held at the same venue and at the same time shall be granted permits in the order of their requests filed with the police.
The police will have an option to ban a meeting if it is deemed likely to jeopardise public order or security, or if it involves “unnecessary harm to the rights or freedoms of other people”.
According to the proposal, events would be seen as a threat to public order, if, for example, they disturbed the operations of law courts or blocked traffic.
Events could also be banned if they harmed others’ “rights to privacy or the protection of their family, home, human dignity, or the dignity of the Hungarian nation, or of national, ethnic, racial, or religious communities” or if they restrict people’s right to free movement.
The police could ban demonstrations from sites or on dates “associated with victims of national socialist or communist dictatorships” or if those demonstrations could “deny, doubt, belittle or justify” the crimes of such dictatorships.
Illegal demonstrations shall be dispersed. Organisers shall be held responsible for damages caused during a demonstration together with participants causing the damage.
The proposal also seeks to modify the penal code, under which people disrupting an assembly could face imprisonment of up to one year, or up to two years if they apply violence against the organisers of the event. Organisers holding events already banned by the authorities could face punishment of up to one year in prison.