Budapest, June 7 (MTI) – Parliament on Tuesday approved changes to the constitution which paves the way for new regulations designed to handle the threat of a terrorist attack.
The sixth change to the fundamental law since its inception in 2012 passed with 153 votes in favour, 13 against and 1 abstention. The motion was sponsored by the ruling Fidesz alliance with the Christian Democrats. In addition to the ruling parties, Jobbik lawmakers voted in favour, green opposition LMP and independent MPs voted against, and one independent abstained. The opposition Socialists refused to participate.
In the event of a terrorist threat or attack a “state of terrorist threat” can be declared if two-thirds of lawmakers give their approval. Accordingly, certain laws can be bypassed and exceptional measures implemented.
The government is obliged to give constant briefings to the President of the Republic and the relevant parliamentary committees of measures enacted. The period in which such measures can be put into practice can last for a maximum of 15 days.
The army can be mobilised if police or national security service resources are not sufficient.
Related to the constitutional amendment, parliament made amendments to several laws, and this package was approved with 152 votes in favour, 42 against and one abstention. The “act of terrorist threat” category now applies to the laws on police, national security and defence. The latter has been amended in a way that the army is also authorised to use weapons if required.
Parliament also approved the interior ministry’s counter-terrorism package which involves the setting up of the Counter-terrorism Information and Criminal Analysis Centre (TIBEK) as a national security service replacing the Coordination Centre Against Organised Crime. TIBEK will operate under the ministry and its main task will be to develop a comprehensive assessment of the risk of terrorism or other threats affecting the country based on the analysis of data affecting national security, public security and other basic security. TIBEK will operate an information supply system and prepare assessments for the government.
In line with an amendment to the original proposal on setting up TIBEK, services overseen by various other ministries will not automatically supply data to TIBEK.
The rules of data handling by TIBEK will not be the same as in the case of other national security services, for instance it will not be authorised to secretly collect data.
The proposal also regulates phone services and obliges service providers to release data to the authorities. The service providers must sign contracts with the national security services governing the conditions of secret data gathering.
Under the new law, the counter-terrorism centre (TEK) will be authorised to protect not only specific individuals but also designated institutions.
Under a proposal submitted by the opposition Socialists, the law on police will also introduce the “heightened security” category applicable at the time of terrorist acts or during the preparation of such acts. Accordingly, in addition to personal checks of identification documents, clothing and vehicles, and the seizing of hazardous materials, police will be authrorised to stop events and restrict public transport or road transport.
Police will be authorised to introduce the heightened security measures for up to 72 hours, extendable by another 72 hours. The national police chief can decide to extend heightened security for an even longer period if substantive and corroborated information so justifies.
Under a change in the criminal code, minors aged between 12 and 14 will be punishable for acts of terrorism.
Anyone leaving or travelling through Hungary in order to join terrorist groups and those who incite or promote terrorism before the wider public will also be punishable.
The majority of measures will become applicable on the 15th day following the law’s proclamation.