IBAHRI expresses concern over Hungarian laws expanding executive power and curtailing LGBTQI+ rights

Tuesday 22 December 2020

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns new legislation passed by the Hungarian Parliament on 15 December 2020, under the premise of working to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inter alia, the legislation:

  • Lowers the legal requirements necessary to meet the threshold required by the government to declare a state of emergency;
  • Diminishes the possibility of meaningful oversight of the government’s actions, subsequently allowing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to consolidate power;
  • Redefines the term ‘public funds’, which critics claim will hinder the capacity of journalists to monitor and scrutinise the expenditure of such funds; and
  • Curtails the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex people (LGBTQI+).

Further, by requiring parties to put forward candidates in 50 constituencies – a threshold that will be difficult for small parties to reach – the political opposition’s participation in the next election will be impeded.

Although the Constitution of Hungary explicitly states that ‘the functioning of the Hungarian State shall be based on the principle of separation of powers’, laws such as the new legislation undermine this principle and weaken the system of checks and balances that are essential for a proper functioning democracy. The power of the executive is being increased to the detriment of the legislature and the judiciary.

The new law infringes on LGBTQI+ rights as it alters the definition of a family, redefining it as consisting of a mother as a woman and a father as a man. Consequently, gay couples are now barred from adopting children and single parents face obstacles adopting.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996–2006), the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘The IBAHRI condemns the actions taken by the Hungarian Government to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to expand its power and introduce repressive measures against citizens. The new law is a further step in Hungary’s retreat from democratic values and respect for human dignity. Undoubtedly, the constant attacks on liberal democracy and human rights are indicative of a growing crisis for the rule of law. Prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQI+ people are contrary to universal human rights. They are also contrary to the European standard and repeated decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Why is this so? Because the rest of Europe has informed itself of the science of human sexual variation and turned away from medieval ignorance and prejudice. It is past time that the Orban Government did likewise and showed leadership to its citizens.’

The IBAHRI reminds the Hungarian Government that Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, which Hungary must uphold as a Member State, provides ‘respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.’ Moreover, Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits discrimination and makes a ‘guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair and immediate past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, commented: ‘The IBAHRI reminds the Hungarian Government of its obligations to respect the core values of the European Union, of which it is a member, and to respect the anti-discrimination obligations enshrined in the human rights instruments to which it is party. We call for the urgent reversal of the law and a halt to the actions of the Hungarian Government that weaken the foundations of a democratic society. It is very disturbing to see Hungary introduce broadly defined rules, that are meant to mitigate emergency situations, as sweeping laws that expand the power of the executive and renounce the values of democracy and equal human rights for all.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. Related material:
  2. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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