Posts Tagged ‘Hungary’

New “Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award” to Ukrainian and Hungarian press cartoonists

May 10, 2022

Geneva Solutions of 3 May 2022 reported on the first issue of the Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award. This is in fact a merger of two pre-existing awards for cartoonists [for more info, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/f60cb3d4-c79a-43aa-9b5c-351c56c02ae1]

The conflict in Ukraine with all these absurd symbols (Vladimir Kazanevsky for Nebelspalter)

Ukrainian Vladimir Kazanevsky and Hungarian Gabor Papai were announced as the winners of the Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award at a ceremony at the Maison de la Paix in Geneva and presented by the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation. Jury : Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch (president), Sami Kanaan, City of Geneva and cartoonists Ann Telnaes (USA), Kak (France) and Chappatte (Switzerland). The portraits below were done by True Heroes Films (THF)

Vladimir Kazanevsky

Vladimir Kazanevsky, Ukraine’s leading cartoonist, was working in his studio early in the morning of 24 February when he heard loud explosions near the airport in Kyiv. He and his wife fled to western Ukraine, along with a huge wave of families fleeing the bombings. From there they went to Presov, a town in Slovakia with a community of artists.

Deprived of his drawing materials, catalogues and books, which he had to leave behind in Kyiv, Kazanevsky continues to draw relentlessly: Putin in action, on a tank or on the bow of the Titanic. “Autocrats and dictators are afraid of our cartoons, and they are right, because our drawings are powerful weapons,” he says.

Fiercely determined to continue the fight against Russian aggression, the 71-year-old sees his work as an act of resistance. An act of defence of freedom of expression against war propaganda.

Gábor Pápai

For several years, Hungarian cartoonist Gàbor Pàpai and his newspaper Népszava – the only opposition daily still alive in Budapest – have been the subject of attacks and legal proceedings by the authorities – even though Hungary is part of the European Union.

This cartoon, “The Chronicle” by Gábor Pápai, published in Hungary’s daily newspaper Népszava on 28 April shows the Hungarian National Public Health Centre’s chief doctor looking at Jesus on the cross and suggesting that many people who had deceased from the coronavirus had already been likely to die because they had suffered from pre-existing conditions.

It was intended to ridicule Hungary’s chief health figure for having tried to minimise the number of deaths solely attributable to the coronavirus in Hungary and, by extension, to mock the government’s handling of the crisis.

“Its depiction and use of Jesus on a cross sparked an outcry from the representatives of the Christian Democrat Party, an ally of the ruling Fidesz, to the point that the Secretary of State for persecuted Christian communities, Tristan Azbej, accused Gábor Pápai of blasphemy and threatened to sue him or Népszava,” as Reporters Without Borders, who came to the defense of Papai, explains.

The Catholic religion, the fight against Covid or simply Hungarian history are all pretexts for prosecution in a country ranked 92nd in the world press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). This shameful ranking has been deteriorating ever since Viktor Orbán became Prime Minister, putting all independent media in great difficulty. Some, like Népszava, are directly threatened with extinction. Gàbor Pàpai, far from being intimidated, continues to critically observe and draw all political actors in Hungary.

Read more about the 2022 laureates

https://genevasolutions.news/global-news/ukrainian-and-hungarian-press-cartoonists-collect-award-in-geneva-view-a-gallery-of-their-wo

https://www.kofiannanfoundation.org/articles/world-press-freedom-day-2022/

EU Rule of law enforcement: road is now free

February 17, 2022
European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 28, 2015.
European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 28, 2015. © 2015 Reuters

The decision on February 16, 2022 by the Court of Justice of the European Union to allow EU institutions to tie funding to EU states to respect for the rule of law clears the way for strong action by the European Commission, Human Rights Watch said. The EU Court’s ruling dismissed the actions brought by Hungary and Poland against the new conditionality mechanism.

The EU Court has sent a clear signal that EU funds should be used in ways that uphold rather than undermine Europe’s democratic values,” said Philippe Dam, Europe and Central Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU Commission should now act swiftly and demonstrate that defending the rule of law is at the top of its agenda.”

In December 2020 the EU adopted a regulation creating a new conditionality mechanism to protect the EU budget from rule of law breaches by an EU member state. A last-minute deal among EU member states obliged the Commission to wait for a ruling by the EU Court of Justice before finalizing the guidelines for applying the conditionality mechanism. Hungary and Poland brought legal action before the EU Court seeking to annul the rule of law conditionality mechanism in March 2021, initiating that process…

The court’s ruling confirms that “compliance by the Member States with the common values on which the European Union is founded (…) such as the rule of law and solidarity, justifies the mutual trust between those States.” The Court added that the EU “must be able to defend those values.”

The European Commission should demonstrate its stated commitment to protect the rule of law and democratic values in the EU by swiftly initiating procedures provided by the regulation, Human Rights Watch said. It should seek to suspend, reduce, or prevent new agreements to provide EU funds to a member state if it finds that the state has failed to respect the rule of law.

In applying the conditionality mechanism, the European Commission should ensure that a broad range of breaches to EU’s democratic values could lead it to recommend cutting funds to EU member states. These should include attacks on the independence of the judiciary, as well as state interference with media and civil society. The Commission should also seek to ensure that EU funding cannot be used to promote intolerance or discriminatory policies, including against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and other minorities.

The Commission should also ensure that carrying out this procedure does not punish EU citizens for the actions of their governments, including by negatively affecting their economic and social rights. The Commission should conduct human rights impact assessments to determine the risk that people’s rights would be harmed by any decision and should divert rather than cut funding as required, to ensure that beneficiaries’ rights are not affected.

Hungary and Poland, the two EU countries that initiated legal action against the regulation, are already facing scrutiny for their poor rule of law records under the Article 7 procedure – the EU treaty provision dealing with governments that flout EU values, which can ultimately lead to the suspension of their voting rights in the Council. Hungary is among the largest recipients of EU funding per capita, and Poland is the largest overall net recipient.

Poland’s government has eroded judicial independence and ignored recent EU Court of Justice decisions. It also used its politically compromised constitutional tribunal to undermine women’s rights and the binding nature of EU law. LGBT and women’s rights activists face threats and harassment. In Hungary, restrictive laws target civil society groups, and the government or its supporters control most media outlets. A June 2021 law banned discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation, putting health providers, educators, artists, and broadcasters at risk of sanctions.

EU member states also have a serious responsibility to ensure that all member states respect EU’s democratic values and the rule of law. On February 22 they will hold a hearing on the situation of the rule of law in Poland under the Article 7 procedure. But since Article 7 was triggered in 2017 on Poland and in 2018 on Hungary, other EU member states have failed to take further action to hold those two governments to account.

..Proceedings under Article 7 should remain the cornerstone of the action against the erosion of EU values in countries like Hungary and Poland. The EU is equipped with the tools needed to stand up against member states that disregard the EU’s own democratic values, Human Rights Watch said. What has been missing is political will by the EU Commission and by leading EU member states to take decisive action and to hold states responsible for abuses to account.

The EU Court ruling underscores that EU institutions can fight back against the erosion of the rule of law within the bloc, but much depends on the European Commission quickly building on this momentum,” Dam said. “Tying EU money to EU values and strengthening scrutiny of rule of law abuses should go hand in hand to demonstrate that EU membership and respect for the rule of law are inseparable.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/13/european-judges-demonstrate-in-poland-against-the-muzzle-law/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/02/16/eu-top-court-approves-linking-eu-funds-rule-law

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/16/poland-hungary-lose-legal-challenge-against-eu-rule-of-law-tool

NGOs demand EU to impose sanctions on NSO Group

December 7, 2021

Dozens of rights groups are urging the European Union to impose sanctions on the Israeli NSO Group to ban the company’s Pegasus surveillance technology. The letter sent to the EU was signed by 86 rights groups and independent experts, including Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy International, among others. A consortium of media revealed that this powerful spyware was used extensively by several governments to spy on lawyers, journalists, political opponents and human rights activists.

Several victims of illegal surveillance have been identified in Hungary, where the government initially denied being a client of NSO Group, before admitting to having purchased the software. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/10/palestinian-ngos-dubbed-terrorist-were-hacked-with-pegasus-spyware/

A good resource is here: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/MAGAZINE-nso-pegasus-spyware-file-complete-list-of-individuals-targeted-1.10549510

Several victims of illegal surveillance have been identified in Hungary, where the government initially denied being a client of NSO Group, before admitting to having purchased the software. See also:

There is overwhelming evidence that Pegasus spyware has been repeatedly used by abusive governments to clamp down on peaceful human rights defenders, activists and perceived critics,” Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The EU should immediately sanction NSO Group and ban any use of its technologies.”

The EU’s global human rights sanctions would allow the EU to adopt “ “targeted sanctions against entities deemed responsible for violations or abuses that are “of serious concern as regards the objectives of the common foreign and security policy”, including violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, or of freedom of opinion and expression,” the letter read.

According to Human Rights Watch, these rights have been “repeatedly violated using NSO technology,” and, as highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, “the use of spyware by abusive governments can also facilitate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or enforced disappearance of persons.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/04/big-coalition-urges-un-to-denounce-abuses-facilitated-by-spyware-technologies/

NSO Group was blacklisted by the US State Department at the beginning of November, and slapped with a sanction that drastically limited the business relationships the US company had with US customers or suppliers, according to the French newspaper Le Monde. “The EU should unequivocally close its doors to business with NSO Group,” Brown said.

“Targeted sanctions are necessary to that end, and to add to growing international pressure against the company and the out-of-control spyware industry.”

In Europe, several investigations are ongoing, but no sanctions have been formally imposed on the company. In addition to Hungary, several other countries are, or have been, customers of NSO Group – although this does not mean that all these countries have made illegal use of Pegasus.

In addition to Germany, several EU countries have purchased access to the software, according to Le Monde.

See also: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/tech-news/.premium.HIGHLIGHT.MAGAZINE-citizen-lab-vs-nso-the-institute-taking-down-israel-s-mercenary-spyware-firms-1.10536773

https://slate.com/technology/2021/12/apple-lawsuit-nso-group-q-cyber-pegasus.html

https://www.euronews.com/next/2021/12/03/pegasus-spyware-ngos-urge-the-eu-to-sanction-israeli-group-nso

And the latest: https://marketresearchtelecast.com/spyware-sale-at-nso-group-the-end-of-pegasus/226205/

as well as

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/concern-activist-s-phone-infected-with-spyware-during-dublin-conference-1.4778962

in 2022 the following items can be added:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/01/26/human-rights-watch-among-pegasus-spyware-targets

https://thewire.in/tech/nso-chairman-quits-says-departure-unrelated-to-recent-scandals

Euro-Med Monitor’s report of November 2020 shows progress in some areas

December 3, 2020

On Thursday, 3 December 2020 Scoop carries the recent report by the Euro- Med Monitor which shows actions in a number of countries covered by the NGO

Hungary

The European Commission issued a new notice/ procedure against Hungary in which it considers Hungary’s new laws against refugees and asylum seekers illegal and violates the European Union laws for asylum seekers. The Hungarian government closed its transit areas and approved a new law prohibiting asylum seekers from entering the country. Under the new law, asylum seekers must first submit “a declaration of intent” at the embassies of Hungary in Serbia or Ukraine, and if they were approved by the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (formerly the Office of Immigration), asylum seekers can then enter the territory of Hungary to formally submit an asylum application.

During a lobbying and advocacy campaign extending for more than three years, Euro-Med Monitor has worked with partner international organizations to pressure the EU governments to accommodate more asylum seekers and distribute the burden among them. Euro-Med Monitor called on the EU to search for the best mechanisms to redistribute refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary in a fair manner between the EU member states, pressure the Hungarian government to take full responsibility for migrants and asylum seekers in its custody, and put an end to violations of their basic rights.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/07/good-example-of-authoritarian-abuse-of-covid-19-emergency-hungary/

Croatia

The EU Ombudsman announced on 10 November that an investigation has been opened into the possible complicity of the EU’s Executive in mismanaging funds allocated for overseeing the conduct of the Croatian border officers accused of participating in violence against asylum seekers, including shootings of refugees.

On May 19, Euro-Med Monitor addressed the Croatian government and concerned parties in the EU to immediately put an end to all illegal and discriminatory practices against asylum seekers and to conduct an independent investigation into violations committed by the Croatian police against refugees.

Spain

On 30 November, the Spanish authorities have cleared and dismantled dock camp in Gran Canaria, which was used to accommodate thousands of migrants and asylum seekers in very adverse conditions since last August.

On November 26, Euro-Med Monitor issued an urgent appeal to the Spanish authorities to end the overcrowding conditions in refugee camps in the Canary Islands, to deal with unsanitary conditions, to increase alternative reception centers, to transfer asylum seekers to the Spanish mainland in a quicker manner, and to establish fair asylum procedures for migrants and asylum seekers.

The Palestinian Territories

The EU called on the Israeli government to halt its policy of home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), including demolishing housing units funded by the EU. This comes amid the high rate of demolitions this year.

In lobbying and advocacy campaigns that spanned over years, Euro-Med Monitor representatives met with members of the European Parliament and launched an intensive correspondence campaign revealing the high number of demolitions against projects funded by the EU in the Palestinian territories. Euro-Med Monitor brought the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), providing a number of reports and statements, and contacted the Special Rapporteur on housing to exert pressure on Israel to put an end to its violations and demolitions last September.

The Jericho Magistrate’s Court issued a decision to release Palestinian activist Nizar Banat after he was arrested for publishing a video on Facebook criticizing the resumption of relations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel.

On November 22, Euro-Med Monitor called on concerned bodies in the PA and its Public Prosecutor to immediately release Banat, and urged the PA to to review its security policies in dealing with opponents and to put an end to all violations committed against the rights guaranteed by relevant international laws and treaties.

Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates

Negotiators in the European Council and the European Parliament approved new rules on November 8 that would control the export of dual-use goods such as electronic surveillance equipment to third countries that might use these technologies to harm their own citizens and are involved in human rights violations.

During the past months, Euro-Med Monitor, in cooperation with partner organizations, addressed several European Parliament members and representatives. The Euro-Med released several reports revealing the grave human rights violations committed by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE against civilians, including the war in Yemen, enforced disappearances, and arrest campaigns against journalists and activists for opposing the regime. Euro-Med Monitor, in cooperation with its partners in the region, called on the European Union (EU) countries to stop the export of weapons and modern surveillance technologies to countries that violate human rights in the Middle East.

Europe

On November 10, members of the European Parliament called for ensuring accountability for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) over returning migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkish territorial waters. On May 6, 2020, Euro-Med Monitor addressed members of the European Parliament and the EU to impose transparency and accountability measures against Frontex practices and to establish an independent oversight committee to investigate and prevent any violations.

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2012/S00020/good-news-on-euro-med-monitors-joint-efforts-towards-ceasing-human-rights-violations-november-2020.htm

European MPs want EU to become serious about linking Corona virus payments to human rights

August 27, 2020
Political leaders in the European Parliament will insist that the EU’s massive budget payouts be dependent on countries meeting human rights and media freedom standards, they said on Wednesday.26 August 2020.  Targeted, but not named, were Hungary and Poland, countries that receive massive subsidies from the EU budget, but flout calls by Brussels to meet commitments on fundamental freedoms.

The time has come to accelerate the fight against the erosion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in the very heart of the EU,” said the letter, signed by leaders from the centre-right, centre-left, centrist and green parties.

The letter was addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, as well as Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the commission, the EU’s executive arm that hands out the cash. Unless there are changes, the European Parliament has already vowed to veto the multi-year, one-trillion-euro budget — along with a massive pandemic recovery fund — that was thrashed out between heads of government at a summit in July.

Parliament members are due to sit down with representatives from the member states on Thursday to seek a compromise, with MEPs insisting on stricter conditions around civil rights.  The summit deal in July was seen by some as not putting enough pressure on countries to respect core EU values, especially after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hailed a “huge victory” against conditionality after the talks.

In their letter on Wednesday, the MEPs insisted that EU member states approve a parliament proposal from April 2019 which would firmly link EU spending to the rule of law, which they vetoed at the time. Without its formal approval, “it will be impossible for us to move forward” on the EU budget, the group leaders said.

The EU budget is deeply intertwined with the 750 billion euro post-virus recovery fund, that parliament does not have a say over.  But given the historic recession afflicting Europe, member states are under huge pressure to implement the plan and the budget as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the year.

Recent events in Hungary and Poland suggest the countries have little intention of addressing EU concerns over attacks on media freedom, LGBTI rights and the independence of the courts. A day after the summit in July, the editor of Hungary’s top independent news site was fired, seen as another sign of the Orban government’s attacks on opposition media. In Poland, the UN’s AIDS programme this month voiced deep concern about the “intensifying persecution” of LGBTI people, as well as crackdowns on human rights defenders.

Top Euro MPs to Merkel: No EU budget without rule of law

Breaking: EU Court rules against Hungary’s foreign funding law

June 19, 2020

The EU Reporterof 19 June 2020 comes with the good news that on 18 June, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recognized that Hungary’s 2017 law “on the Transparency of Organisations Supported from Abroad” (i.e. receiving foreign funds) unduly restricts the freedom of movement of capitals within the European Union (EU) and amounts to unjustified interference with fundamental rights, including respect for private and family life, protection of personal data and freedom of association, as well citizens’ right to participate in public life. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/]

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) welcomes this decision and hopes it will put an end to the Hungarian government’s constant attempts to delegitimise civil society organisations and impede their work.

It concerns decision (Case C-78/18, European Commission v. Hungary, Transparency of Associations).

This decision is more than welcome! It strongly asserts that stigmatizing and intimidating NGOs receiving funding from abroad and obstructing their work is not accepted in the European Union,” said Marta Pardavi, Co-Chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), member organisation of FIDH and of OMCT’s SOS-Torture Network. “Today’s ruling is a victory not only for Hungarian civil society organisations, who have campaigned fiercely against this law since its adoption, but for European civil society as a whole. It is a clear reaffirmation of the fundamental role played by civil society in a democratic State founded on the rule of law.”

Hungary should now withdraw this anti-NGO law and conform with the CJEU’s decision,” added OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

https://www.eureporter.co/eu-2/2020/06/19/eus-top-court-rules-that-hungarys-anti-ngo-law-unduly-restricts-fundamental-rights

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Civil Rights Defenders

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Anders L. Pettersson, Executive Director of the Stockholm-based human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders (as published in the The Globe Post of 9 April 2020): “COVID-19 Is No Excuse for Governments to Abuse Human Rights”:

……But the COVID-19 pandemic is no ordinary struggle. The world is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis with far-reaching political, economic, and social consequences. Basic human rights, such as the right to freedom of movement and assembly, are being suspended to contain the virus’ further spread. Put simply, drastic measures have to be taken, and we are entrusting our respective governments to take them.

A member of the military police wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as he patrols the streets in Bogota, on March 25, 2020. Photo: AFP

This, however, must not be understood as a blank cheque for authoritarian leaders to tighten their grip on power. While most national constitutions, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allow for the derogation of certain human and minority rights during a state of emergency, it is “only to the extent strictly required by the situation.”

Across the world, though, numerous examples point to clear overreach of such emergency power and, more depressingly, the abuse of trust vested in governments from civil society.

Abuse of Emergency Powers

  • In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation that his political opponents are trying to use the outbreak to destroy the country, and suggested that measures to “isolate” them might be required. The prominent opposition activist Tofig Yagublu has already been arrested and sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention. He faces up to six years in prison….
  • Meanwhile, Montenegro’s government made the inexplicable move of making public the personal data – including names and home addresses – of all those obliged to be in self-isolation, a gross infringement on the right to privacy.
  • Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, also wasted no time in flexing his newfound powers. Last weekend, he casually threatened his citizens by posting a video supposedly showing Spanish police beating and chasing people down the streets, with an outrageously inappropriate message “either respect social distancing… or you will also be running.” Except, the video was from a political protest, weeks ago – in Algeria, not Spain.
  • Speaking of “fake news,” we have received reports from partners in Cambodia that over a dozen people have already been jailed, or “re-educated,” for allegedly sharing false social media posts about the pandemic – a measure that we fear is prone to be replicated across the world, not least among E.U. states.
  • Namely, Hungary’s nationalist government recently passed legislation to parliament that would punish anyone who publicizes “fake news” that interferes with the “successful defense” of public health, with up to five years in prison. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/07/good-example-of-authoritarian-abuse-of-covid-19-emergency-hungary/]..

Civil society, therefore, finds itself in an incredibly delicate situation.

On the one hand, there is an understanding that the severity of the crisis calls for certain limitations on our fundamental rights. Only national authorities possess the legitimacy to enforce such constraints and the capacity to tackle the virus through strict health and safety measures. We have no alternative but to trust our respective governments to navigate us, and their intentions to save lives and minimize the virus’ impact. On the other hand, we have a responsibility to protect partners across the world, whose fight for democracy and fundamental human rights will be further strained as emergency powers, enforced curfews, and restrictions on free speech come into place. Some measures may be necessary, but others are clearly not – and all must be removed once this is all over. Further, using the pandemic to harass human rights defenders or abuse the rule of law for political gains, as we are already witnessing, is simply unacceptable. We will monitor your moves, keep you accountable, and call you out when the line has been crossed – this is our duty. Widespread trust that has been vested in governments – all governments – amounts to a historic responsibility. Civil society has reached out its hand; do not let us down.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post._

Good example of authoritarian abuse of COVID-19 emergency: Hungary

April 7, 2020

Hungary has defied calls by human rights defenders to respect human rights standards in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak.  Monday 30 March 2020, Hungary’s parliament passed a controversial Law on Protection against the Coronavirus, allowing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree for an indefinite period [!], and to jail anybody deemed to be publishing ‘fake news’ by up to five years. In the days prior, Civil Rights Defenders condemned the bill on the grounds that it is an attack on the rule of law and democracy, and presents numerous threats to human rights in the country (see https://crd.org/2020/03/24/hungary-state-of-emergency-is-no-excuse-for-undermining-rule-of-law/).

In one of its first moves, the government tabled a bill outlawing legal gender recognition which is a serious and permanent attack on the rights of Trans people. The following day, on Tuesday, it hinted it would use emergency powers to push educational reform by perusing an appalling new curriculum that will rewrite history books by promoting national pride, and making anti-Semitic authors compulsory reading. Coupled with the restrictions on media freedoms, the freedom of expression and the indefinite emergency rule, these measures are a clear overreach of emergency powers and a grave threat to democracy.

20 EU Member States have reacted in a joint-statement that they are “deeply concerned about the risk of violations of the principles of rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights arising from the adoption of certain emergency measures”. However, the statement’s authors did not call out countries by name, thus creating a loophole for Hungary to shamelessly became a signatory itself [SIC and SICK].

https://crd.org/2020/04/07/hungary-ignores-calls-for-respect-of-human-rights/

In memoriam Hungarian author György Konrád – age 86

September 15, 2019

Featured photo by Lajos Soós/MTI
MTI-Hungary Today reported on 14 September 2019 that Hungarian author, essayist and sociologist György Konrád died on Friday 13 September at the age of 86. He was one of the best-known representatives of Hungarian prose around the world, with works translated into many languages.

Born in Debrecen in 1933, Konrád survived the Holocaust in a safe house in Budapest. He graduated as a teacher from Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University in 1956. After serving in the National Guard during the 1956 revolution, he made his living through ad hoc jobs for a few years. In 1959 he got full-time state employment, working as a children’s welfare supervisor until 1965. The experience amassed during this time served as the basis for his first novel The Case Worker. He was working closely with urban sociologist Iván Szelényi with whom he wrote a book on the sociological problems of new housing estates.

Citing political reasons, the communist authorities banned the publication of his second novel, The City Builder. After losing his job in 1973, Konrád, together with Szelényi, wrote The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, a sociological analysis of political history questioning workers’ rule in then Hungary. The political police, however, confiscated the manuscript and arrested the authors for incitement against the state. They were informed that they would be permitted to emigrate with their families. Szelényi accepted the offer, while Konrád remained in Hungary, choosing internal emigration.

He published in Hungarian samizdat and through western publishing houses. Virtually from this period until 1989, Konrád was a forbidden author in Hungary, deprived of all legal income. In 1987-88 he taught world literature at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

In the 1980s Konrád was member of the Democratic Opposition and in 1988 became a founder of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). In 1990 he was elected president of PEN International, holding the post full time until 1993. Between 1997 and 2003, Konrád was twice elected president of Berlin-Brandenburg’s Akademie der Kuenste. His long list of awards included the peace prize of PEN International (1991), the French Legion of Honour (1996), the Charlemagne Prize (2001) and the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award (2007).

 

Author György Konrád Dies Aged 86

 

UK joins small group of countries with specific guidelines on human rights defenders

July 19, 2019

The United Kingdom has recently published guidelines for the protection and support of rights defenders around the world. It joins a small group of countries such as Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria and Canada (although they differ – see the websites of these countries). There are also some mulitlateral ones such as the EU Guidelines.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/01/13/quick-reminder-of-the-eu-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/] and those of the OSCE.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/13/canada-joins-select-group-of-governments-with-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/11/02/swiss-guidelines-on-human-rights-defenders-analyzed-by-civil-society/.

In the foreword to the publication Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for Human Rights, states: To demonstrate our commitment of continued support of human rights defenders globally, this document sets out why human rights defenders are important to us and acknowledges the risks they face in the pursuit of universal human rights. We hope it will give human rights defenders encouragement to know how we may be able to support them, including through our network of embassies and high commissions overseas. Whilst every situation may be different depending on local context, our values and commitments in providing support remain the same

Human Rights Watch was not impressed: While welcome, real support requires a willingness to speak out even when it carries political costs. The new guidelines praise the courageous work of human rights defenders in the face of risks including threats, intimidation, harassment, and detention. The guidelines rightly identify groups which are in greater danger, such as journalists, women, and LGBT activists, and express the UK’s commitment to support them “wherever they are in the world.” But when it comes to actually standing up for human rights defenders, the UK’s record is patchy. While it sometimes speaks out in private, it remains reluctant to do so publicly, even though doing so would raise the cost to states that seek to silence those who speak truth to power. The UK government has so far done very little about credible reports of the torture, sexual harassment, and assault of Saudi women activists currently on trial for defending human rights in their country. It has failed to hold Hungary to account for its efforts to clamp down on human rights groups and rule of law. And it has failed to criticize United Arab Emirates authorities for the unjust imprisonment of Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor on his peaceful calls for reform. The UK hopes that by publishing these guidelines, defenders might be encouraged to understand that the British government might be able to support them. But if the UK is really serious about this, it should be willing to speak out publicly on their behalf when they are in trouble, including when their safety is at risk in countries that are UK allies. In short, the UK’s new Prime Minister should make it a priority to protect and support human rights defenders no matter where they are in the world.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/07/19/will-next-uk-government-stand-human-rights-defenders

Click to access UK-Support-for-Human-Rights-Defenders.pdf