Budapest, March 4 (MTI) – Hungary is a multiparty parliamentary democracy, but is not without human rights problems, according to the US State Department’s 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released on Friday local time.
The report named the government’s handling of migrants and asylum-seekers as Hungary’s biggest human rights problem. It notes that there had been several allegations of physical abuse of migrants and asylum seekers, adding that the government had “resisted calls to order an independent investigation into the reports”.
The report also noted that civil and human rights groups had been critical of “the systematic erosion of the rule of law”, the “weakening of checks and balances, democratic institutions, and transparency” as well as the “intimidation of independent societal voices since 2010”.
It also named prison overcrowding, the physical abuse of inmates and detainees by prison staff, the government registration of religious groups, government corruption, “growing media concentration that restricted editorial independence” and governmental pressure on civil society among Hungary’s human rights problems.
The State Department also mentioned among the country’s human rights problems the issues of domestic violence against women and children, sexual harassment of women, anti-Semitism, the “inhuman treatment” and abuse of institutionalised children and adults with physical and mental disabilities along with the discrimination and social exclusion of Roma people.
Regarding judicial practices, the report said that while Hungary’s courts function independently, there had been attempts to exert political influence over the judiciary. It cited the government’s public criticism of a Veszprém court’s acquittal of the suspects in the 2010 red sludge disaster as an example of an attempt to influence a judicial decision.
Concerning the freedom of expression, the report noted that hate speech is prohibited by law in Hungary. It noted the case of controversial journalist Zsolt Bayer who had written an article in the daily Magyar Hírlap which Hungary’s media authority ruled had constituted hate speech. The report also notes that Bayer had later received the state award of Hungary’s Order of Merit, knight’s cross.
Regarding corruption, the report cites reports from NGOs Transparency International Hungary and K-Monitor saying that Hungary’s economy was “dominated by cronyism and state capitalism.”
On the topic of anti-Semitism, the report cites data from the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), which said it had registered 19 incidents of public expression of anti-Semitism over the first six months of the year.
Hungary’s foreign ministry on Saturday responded to the report saying that it was not a fundamental human right for “crowds of people” to “march” through safe countries, violate their national laws and decide where they want to live. In a statement, the ministry said that while it disagreed with the former Democrat-controlled State Department, it is in agreement with US President Donald Trump on illegal immigration, and considers the security of the Hungarian people its top priority. The ministry insisted that “objective facts” proved that the allegations of corruption made against the government were “baseless”, arguing that Hungary’s economy and wages were growing, the public debt shrinking, while the budget deficit is under 3 percent.