Council of Europe Secretary General worried over Hungary’s treatment of refugees

September 15, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 4.58.05 PMCouncil of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland (pictured) announced today that he will write to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about new legislation adopted in the context of the migration crisis.

“I am concerned about a series of recent amendments to legislation in Hungary which will, among other things, allow the Government to declare a ‘state of crisis’ caused by mass immigration,” Jagland said.

“I will write to the Prime Minister today asking for the final text of all relevant legislation adopted in the context of the migration crisis with a view to making a compatibility analysis.

“I will also ask for reassurances that if a ‘state of crisis’ is declared, Hungary will remain committed to its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Under Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a country may derogate from certain rights enshrined in the Convention and, in that case, has to notify the Secretary General. There can be no derogation from Article 2 (right to life), from Article 3 (prohibition of torture), from Article 4 paragraph 1 (prohibition of slavery) and from Article 7 (no punishment without law).

Meanwhile, the Helsinki Commission of Hungary announced today that a number of recent changes to Hungary’s criminal code in response to the refugee crisis violate domestic, EU and international law.

The legal rights watchdog NGO observes that the government created three new categories of crime:  unlawful border crossing, dismantling of border defenses, and obstructing the construction or maintenance of border defenses.  In addition, it adopted stricter regulations with regard to human smuggling, simplified conditions for deporting individuals, and introduced special, accelerated rules in the case of criminal procedures.

According to the Helsinki Commission:

  • It is not possible to employ accelerated procedures in the case of criminal cases.
  • International law prohibits punishing asylum seekers from illegally crossing borders.
  • The regulations completely disregard the rights of minors.

The fact that authorities are not required to translate official documents into the language of the affected parties violates domestic and international obligations. reports, meanwhile, that 13 out of 16 applications for asylum submitted at the border today were rejected on the basis of the aforementioned laws.