Roma continued to face violent attacks and discrimination and lived in a climate of fear. The police completed the investigation into a series of attacks against Roma in 2008 and 2009 and four suspects were charged. International human rights monitoring bodies raised concerns over structural shortcomings of the Hungarian criminal justice system’s response to hate crimes. Romani children were segregated in primary school.
The coalition of the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz) and the Christian-Democratic People’s Party won the parliamentary elections convincingly in April. An extreme right-wing political party Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) gained seats in parliament for the first time.
Members of the banned group the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) reportedly continued their activities under another name, the New Hungarian Guard. In September, the prosecutor pressed charges against three of its leaders for incitement against the decree of an authority and abuse of freedom of assembly.Top of page
After a series of violent attacks against Romani communities which left six people dead in 2008 and 2009, Hungarian NGOs reported further attacks against Roma and criticized the lack of procedures within the criminal justice system to effectively address hate crimes (see Justice system below). In June, the OSCE noted that Roma were more susceptible to being made “scapegoats”, blamed for the country’s existing socio-economic problems, as a larger percentage of them depended on state support.
In September, the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities expressed concerns about violent attacks against Roma, and noted that despite the arrests of the alleged perpetrators, there was still “a climate of fear”. The Committee further expressed concerns that “intolerance and prejudice towards Roma are being fanned by the statements of certain extreme right-wing politicians.” According to local NGOs, such statements were not firmly condemned by the government.
In the run-up to the municipal elections in October, national public radio and television refused to air a party-political advert by the Jobbik party, which referred to so-called “Gypsy crime” and claimed a link between crime and ethnicity. The National Elections Committee ruled that both media had violated electoral principles of equality of political parties and that the advert had complied with free speech regulations. In September, the Supreme Court upheld the decision.Top of page
Structural shortcomings of the Hungarian criminal justice system’s response to hate crimes were revealed by international and local NGOs and international human rights monitoring bodies. These shortcomings included a lack of capacity to recognize and investigate hate crimes; no specialized training or specific guidelines for police and investigators; inadequate support to victims of hate crimes; and no effective measures to map the nature and scale of the issue, partly because of a lack of data which hampered the authorities’ ability to identify trends and prepare relevant policy responses.
There were several documented cases which illustrated that law enforcement authorities often failed to recognize the racial motivation in crimes. In their submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, Hungarian NGOs also expressed concerns in November over a tendency to classify crimes as “common” crimes rather than hate crimes with a racially aggravated motive. As a result, reliable statistics were not publicly available on the real number of racially motivated crimes in Hungary. Hatred as an aggravated motive was also reportedly ignored in crimes committed against LGBT people or Jewish people.Top of page
The UN Human Rights Committee raised concerns about discrimination against Roma in education, housing, health and political participation and the lack of regulated data collection disaggregated by ethnicity.
A draft law on construction procedures, submitted to parliament in September by the Minister of Interior, included a provision that would allow local authorities to ban certain behaviour – including rough sleeping – in public spaces. According to NGOs working with homeless people, the sanctions would include fines, evictions or imprisonment. They raised concern that the proposal was an example of penalizing poverty.Top of page
Despite protests, the parliament adopted two new media acts in September and December. The new legislation was criticized by local NGOs, media and the international community over its possible implications, including restrictions on media content, the lack of clear guidelines for journalists and editors and the strong powers of the new regulatory body, which all risk unfairly restricting freedom of expression. The National Media and Communications Authority was created, which can impose heavy fines on broadcast media for content it considers to run counter to the “public interest”, “common morality” and “national order”. Fines can also be imposed for “unbalanced” news reporting.Top of page
The organizers of the LGBT pride march in Budapest alleged the police initially refused to use protective cordons to secure the march held on 16 July. Two participants were reportedly beaten after the march.Top of page