19 July 2018. Budapest
We welcome the European Commission’s (EC) decision to start an infringement procedure against the Hungarian criminal law which threatens to prosecute and jail people who help asylum-seekers and migrants with legitimate means.
The law which came into force on 1 July 2018 breaches the freedom of association, the freedom of expression and the EU’s asylum law. For years the Hungarian government has been running a campaign targeting and stigmatizing civil society organizations. In 2017, the Hungarian Parliament passed a law to stigmatize independent NGOs receiving foreign funding. One year later, the government uses criminal law to target those providing legitimate assistance to asylum seekers or foreigners, who protect humanitarian values and support the right to a fair procedure.
The Commission was right to start legal procedures so rapidly after the criminal law came into force. Now that the infringement procedure has started, the EC needs to continue with the procedure swiftly to ensure the case can be decided by the Court of Justice as soon as possible. The threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment against individuals, lawyers, staff and volunteers of legitimate organizations giving legitimate and essential help to asylum-seekers and migrants and vulnerable people, can only be eliminated by a judgment from the EU’s court.
It was clear that the Hungarian government was not interested in protecting human rights and adhering to EU norms as it pushed the law through parliament without waiting for the Venice Commission’s final opinion. This stated that the law criminalizes legitimate activities and breaches fundamental human rights.
“There is only one good solution to this law: to do away with it. Before it was adopted, the Hungarian government intentionally disregarded clear warnings about the law, so the case needs to reach the Court of Justice of EU soon. Until we have a judgment, the European Commission’s legal action is not able to eliminate the real threat of prosecution and jail against individuals who help asylum-seekers with legitimate means.” said HHC co-chair Márta Pardavi.