Hungary: Government must not be granted unlimited powers by new Covid19 law

As the Hungarian parliament prepares to vote on new law on Monday that would allow the government to rule by decree without meaningful oversight, and with no clear end date or periodic reviews under the state of emergency, David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary Director, said:

“This bill would create an indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency and give Viktor Orbán and his government carte blanche to restrict human rights. This is not the way to address the very real crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This bill would give Viktor Orbán and his government carte blanche to restrict human right
David Vig, Amnesty International Hungary

“We need strong safeguards to ensure that any measures to restrict human rights adopted under the state of emergency are strictly necessary and proportional in order to protect public health. This new law must not bestow unlimited powers to the government to rule by decree beyond the pandemic.

During his years as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalised groups and attempting to muzzle Hungary’s critical voices
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“During his years as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalised groups and attempting to muzzle Hungary’s critical voices. Allowing his government to rule by decree would likely speed this rollback.”

For more information or to arrange an interview contact demeter.aron@amnesty.hu or press@amnesty.org / +447936766445 or +44 2030365599

Background

Plans for the new law have received international criticism from the Council of Europe, European Parliament, International Press Institute, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

On Monday 30 March, parliament is expected to vote on the new law which has two pillars of provisions. First, it seeks a parliamentary mandate for the government to rule by decree without a sunset clause, or any other provision that would guarantee that the parliament can exercise its role of effective oversight.

Secondly, the law creates two new crimes that are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. Anyone who publicizes false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public – or that “alarm or agitate” that public – could be punished by up to five years in prison.

Anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.

For a full summary of concerns and recommendations see the joint statement of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, The Civil Liberties Union, Eötvös Károly Institute and Amnesty International Hungary: https://www.amnesty.hu/data/file/4846-unlimited-power-is-not-the-panacea-20200322.pdf?version=1415642342

 

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