Hungarian Constitutional Court restrictions of great concern to IBAHRI

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is deeply concerned by the Hungarian Parliament’s adoption of a Fourth Amendment to the Hungarian Fundamental Law (the 'Constitution') that further limits the authority of the Constitutional Court.

The Fourth Amendment, adopted 11 March 2013, prohibits the Constitutional Court from examining the substantive constitutionality of future proposed amendments to the Constitution and strips the Court of the right to refer in its rulings to legal decisions made prior to January 2012, when the new constitution came into effect.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, IBAHRI Co-Chair, commented, ‘The adoption of the Fourth Amendment represents a significant attack on the separation of powers in Hungary and increased control over the judiciary by the Hungarian Government. This is of deep concern to the IBAHRI.’

She expanded, ‘Restricting the competence of the Constitutional Court to review proposed constitutional amendments on procedural grounds only, and prohibiting it from referring to its own jurisprudence, is contrary to international standards and the basic notions of judicial independence. We, therefore, call on Hungary’s authorities to fulfil its international rule of law obligations and revoke the Fourth Amendment.’

The most recent constitutional amendment follows a series of controversial legislative reforms since 2011, under the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s administration, that have curbed the Constitutional Court’s role in reviewing legislation and the ability of citizens to have their constitutional rights adjudicated by it. The IBAHRI has expressed further concern over the Executive’s attitude towards other branches of state in relation to legal reforms – particularly the tendency not to respect the decisions of the Constitutional Court or to engage in proper legislative consultation.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

In March 2012 an IBAHRI delegation visited Budapest on a fact-finding mission, to meet with members of the Executive, judiciary and the legal profession. A Report detailing the mission’s findings, conclusions and recommendations, entitled Courting Controversy: the Impact of the Recent Reforms on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law in Hungary expressed concern at growing limitations on the competence of the Constitutional Court and the tendency of the Government to ignore its decisions. Key recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • The Government of Hungary consider establishing a panel to review the new Constitution to assess how it is operating in practice and to suggest amendments. Such a panel should include membership from across the political spectrum;
  • The Government of Hungary cease the practice of overturning Constitutional Court judgments with which it disagrees. A constitutional review panel should consider the issue of restrictions on the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court. Furthermore, the Government should provide for the possibility of legal aid for admissible constitutional challenges and review the constitutional amendments that restrict locus standi and the ability of individuals to vindicate their constitutional rights in court; and
  • The Government of Hungary refrain from using non-standard parliamentary procedures in order to legislate in areas affecting fundamental aspects of public life and, in general, should seek to engage with opposition groups and civil society on a more frequent and systematic basis

A copy of the report, Courting Controversy: the Impact of the Recent Reforms on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law in Hungary, can be accessed via the following link: /Document/Default.aspx?DocumentUid=89D4991A-D61F-498A-BD21-0BAFFA6ABF17

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