Budapest (MTI) – Laszlo Szekely, Hungary’s ombudsman, told MTI in a wide-ranging interview that the government control office has a constitutional right to investigate how civil organisations distribute funding.
Referring to a rights group which had turned to him for his opinion on whether the control office (Kehi) had the legal authority to examine the use of funds distributed under the Norway Grants scheme — and asking him to seek the top court’s opinion — the fundamental rights ombudsman said the Constitutional Court’s opinion was not required. “My job is to advise the sides involved about the basic legal facts rather than to take sides in a political dispute.” The scope of Kehi’s powers and how they are exercised must be jointly clarified by states (ie, by Hungary and Norway) on the basis of the agreement on granting and disbursing foreign funds, Szekely said.
On the topic of a complaint about the shrinking size of Budapest’s green areas due to the planned museum quarter in City Park, he said this was an issue to be examined not by the ombudsman but by municipality politicians and experts.
Concerning discrimination affecting members of the LGBT community, Szekely said his office had received only a few submissions. However, he called for extra efforts to increase social sensitivity on the issue and to enhance tolerance. “This community was, 2-3 decades ago, forced to remain basically invisible. Now it is high time for society to get used to fact that they openly declare their orientation, which is a basic component of their identity.”
Szekely said it was important for his office to take the complaints and submissions by vulnerable, exposed and low status people seriously. These include the Roma, homeless, drug addicts and the unemployed. In this field civil organisations help the ombudsman’s office greatly, Szekely said, noting for example excellent cooperation with UNICEF Hungary.
Discussing a new task, he noted his office will be in charge of overseeing the enforcement of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture from January next year. People are kept in detention in Hungary at 4,000 sites that include police and army facilities as well as correction and psychiatric institutions. A new, ten-member team set up by the ombudsman’s office will carry out unannounced spot checks and prepare reports to the UN every year, Szekely said.
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