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September 26, 2014

Community of Democracies Should Reexamine Hungary’s Membership

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called on the Community of Democracies to review whether Hungary should be voted off the organization’s Governing Council in light of the government’s increasing authoritarianism and harassment of NGOs.

“The Orban government should be working to undermine support for Hungary’s fascist party, Jobbik, and protect the human rights of Roma, Jews, and other vulnerable citizens. Instead, it is using armed special police forces to raid NGOs funded by foreign governments,” said Human Right First’s Sonni Efron. “Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently declared that his country aspires to be an ‘illiberal democracy,’ and that it rejects liberal values. So why is Hungary still allowed to serve on the steering committee of one of the world’s leading democracy clubs?”

Human Rights First recently released a report, “We're not Nazis, but...The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” that details the growing threat to human rights posed by the rise of Jobbik. It also documents the Hungarian government’s actions over the past four years that have violated religious freedoms, curtailed judicial independence and media freedom, and failed to combat a rising tide of violent antisemitism. These actions have led to a series of rebukes by the European Union, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and from Hungary’s own Supreme Court.

Specifically, the Human Rights First calls on Hungary to:

  • Revise the Fourth Amendment and other articles of the Fundamental Law to meet international standards.
  • Cease harassment of NGOs and stop demonizing those that accept international funding as “foreign agents.”
  • Repeal the new media and religion laws, which infringe on fundamental freedoms.
  • Rebuke antisemitic, racist or homophobic remarks by government or Fidesz party officials, as well as those of Jobbik or other extremist parties.
  • Step up investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and increasing funding and training for such efforts.

“Hungary should not be able to violate—indeed, reject---the international democratic norms and human rights standards it agreed to when it signed the Treaty of European Union and the Warsaw Declaration, while still benefiting from membership in these institutions,” said Efron, who spoke at the Governing Council in New York this week.

The Community of Democracies is an intergovernmental coalition of countries that brings together governments, civil society, and the private sector to support and strengthen democratic institutions around the world.  Its Governing Council will meet next in El Salvador this winter, and should vote in new countries as members at that time if Hungary continues to flout fundamental democratic norms.For more information, see Efron’s remarks, “Is Hungary Still a Rights-Respecting Democracy?’’ and Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino’s recent speech at the OSCE meeting in Warsaw.

To speak with Efron, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.