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"Hungary should consider withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights"

2020.02.20. 16:53 Módosítva: 2020.02.20. 16:53

Hungary should consider suspending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and withdrawing from the European Convention of Human Rights, Imre Vejkey, the deputy whip of governing coalition party KDNP, said in the Hungarian Parliament on Thursday.

"Something stinks in Strasbourg,"

- Vejkey said at the start of his speech during the debate on the bill to "end the abuse of the compensation system against prison overcrowding." The MP stated that judgments made by the European Court of Human Rights are supporting the "prison business" - this is how the Hungarian government refers to the lawsuits Hungary lost to inmates who sued the state for inhumane treatment due to overcrowding in prisons. The government claims that European decisionmakers value the rights of "violent criminals" more than the rights of law-abiding citizens, and "foreign-funded organisations" controlled by George Soros are taking money away from the Hungarian taxpayers, a National Consultation on this is already in preparation. Viktor Orbán said that the compensations cost Hungary 8.5 billion Forints - in comparison, the government spent 7.2 billion just on the promotion of the last national consultation titled "Stop Soros." 

The bill the Parliament debated on Thursday would suspend payments of damages awarded by final judgments of several courts to former inmates until the National Consultation concludes and the government recodifies the system originally introduced by Fidesz in 2015. 

Vejkey thinks that because of the "prison business," Hungary should consider withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights and suspending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

"The protection of fundamental rights is guaranteed even without active membership in the ECHR," 

- the MP said, and after citing a quote from Pope John Paul II about fighting for freedom, added that Fidesz-KDNP represents the freedom of Hungary unlike the "servants of global shadow powers" who only bring "anxiety and hopelessness" instead of the boundless individual freedom they promise, adding:

"The future belongs to us, not to the BSS triumvirate - Brussels, Strasbourg, Soros."

Vejkey concluded that it seems that there are "global power groups" behind the Strasbourg judgments which "severely violate the competences of Hungary," adding that the court "behaves like a sovereign with the countries that acknowledge their subjugation."

Index asked the MP if this was his private opinion or if it can be regarded as the official position of the Fidesz-KDNP coalition. We also asked him to elaborate on why withdrawing from the Convention would be advantageous for Hungary. We received the following answer:

"Regarding the facts I mentioned, and regarding the practices of other countries in the Council of Europe, and even in the European Union (see for instance the attitudes of France), we should consider withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, or at least suspending or amending certain articles!

I think that it is not a sin to think about the question I brought up, to consider and compare the possible advantages and disadvantages. I am glad that in today's Hungary we are allowed to think freely about any issue, and we can debate them freely, because today, that is a given."

Déjà vu

This is not the first time Vejkey spoke up against the Convention, as he made the same comment in the Parliament in 2017, talking about a European Court of Human Rights judgment ruling that Hungary unlawfully detained migrants in the transit zone on the southern border (the decision was later overturned, but Hungary still had to pay for not thoroughly examining the merits of the asylum application).

The MP's opinion was quickly echoed then by pro-government think-tank Centre for Human Rights, the government's international spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said that all of Hungary's memberships in international organisations have to be revised, and Fidesz's parliamentary group leader Lajos Kósa also commented that the Strasbourg tribunal's jurisdiction in Hungary will have to be revised if the Hungarian Helsinki Committee takes money from Hungary by "using economic migrants as living shields." Apart from these comments, nothing happened then, Hungary has not withdrawn from the Convention.

In response to an MEP's written question on the matter, the European Commission said that they "do not comment on hypothetical policy decisions debated in Member States," but referred to an earlier Commission answer stating that respecting the Convention is a condition of accession to the EU, and explained that it has a "special importance" in laying down the fundamental rights EU member states are expected to respect, withdrawal from the Convention "could, in certain circumstances, raise concern as regards the effective protection of fundamental rights by its authorities" and such a hypothetical situation would warrant an examination under Article 2 and 7 of the Treaty of the European Union - by the way, such a procedure is already underway against Hungary since 2018.

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