Police in Hungary are already using a restrictive new law to ban protests

Peaceful Assembly

On 1st October 2018, a new law on public assemblies came into effect in Hungary. The new law, which has been sharply criticised by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) and other human rights organisations, includes several provisions that make it much more restrictive than its predecessor. The new law gives discretion to the police, such that now they can ban public assemblies for a wide range of reasons, for instance protecting public order and security, protecting the rights and freedoms of others, protecting international political leaders. According to Szabolcs Hegyi, an expert on the freedom of assembly at HCLU, the new law makes it convenient for the police to suppress civic activism through administrative measures.

As expected, the police have used these new powers. In early October 2018, they refused permission for a demonstration against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was being organised by opposition party, the Democratic Coalition. At the same time, police gave the green light to a "sympathy protest" held by the local Turkish community just a few metres from the site requested by the Democratic Coalition. Erogan paid an official visit to Hungary in early October, where he received a "warm welcome" from Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Association

As the CIVICUS Monitor previously reported, on 24th August 2018 a new law imposing a "special tax" on organisations that "support immigration" was enacted. In September, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) filed a complaint about the law with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). They also challenged the new criminal provision threatening those who assist asylum seekers with imprisonment before the ECtHR and the Hungarian Constitutional Court. In its legal submission, HHC argues that:

“the new legal provisions only serve to intimidate civil society organizations, are unconstitutional and violate fundamental human rights".