Apparently succumbing to pressure from NGOs, Hungary’s Ministry of Justice has withdrawn a list of three nominees for the European Court of Human Rights and announced a public tender to fill the seat of András Sajó whose mandate is due to expire soon.
The list of potential candidates submitted earlier this year included Pázmány Catholic University department head Balázs Schanda, government commissioner Krisztina Füzi-Rozsnyai, and Zoltán Tallódi, an assistant department chief at the Ministry of Justice. Reportedly, the short list was compiled on the basis of a series of quiet consultations by justice minister László Trócsányi.
A coalition of NGOs led by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee called on the Council of Europe to reject the list of candidates because the government used a process that was neither fair, transparent nor non-discriminatory. Now, even though the deadline of August 26 has already passed, the government has announced a call for tenders.
On Tuesday, September 13, Hungary’s justice ministry quietly issued a press release announcing a tender for the position as a judge on the European Court of Human Rights. The ministry will compile a short list of candidates. The candidates will be screened by a Council of Europe committee and a final recommendation put to a vote during a plenary parliament session.
Critics of the government’s nomination process argued that a list of secretly chosen, hand-picked jurists would certainly come with the risk of the government nominating politically-motivated individuals to the post.
According to a ministry press release, the government’s list is being withdrawn despite “the Council of Europe’s recommendations on the justice nomination process being non-binding.”
“In accordance with the expectations of the Council of Europe, [the Hungarian government] will assemble a professional committee to evaluate the tenders of candidates [for the post],” the government’s statement read.
The choice of judge is important because, among other things, the judge from Hungary will decide which cases from Hungary are to be heard by the European court.