Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
On November 12, the Central Investigative Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation for mistreatment in an official proceeding against four prison officers in connection with the death of a 44-year-old prisoner on the same day in the Budapest High and Medium Security Prison. On November 17, the prison commander suspended the four prison wardens and one other staff member at the medical unit for two months and launched disciplinary procedures against them (see also section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions).
On March 31, Bela Biszku, who had been under prosecution since 2013 for acting as an accomplice to war crimes and multiple murders committed by the government during the communist era, died at the age of 94, which terminated the pending court case.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports that authorities did not always observe these prohibitions.
As of September, the commissioner for fundamental rights (ombudsman) issued seven reports within the framework of the national preventive mechanism of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) on unannounced site inspections in detention facilities. The inspected institutions included penitentiaries, police holding facilities, homes for the elderly, and centers for children with disabilities or special needs. All these reports established cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Since June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Amnesty International released reports on allegations of abuse and violence by law enforcement officials against migrants and asylum seekers who entered the country irregularly from Serbia. The reports included allegations of systemic violence, including bites by unleashed dogs, the use of pepper spray, beatings with truncheons, and other mistreatment. On July 15, UNHCR called on the government to investigate reports of abuses. As of November, there was no official information on any internal investigations having been opened based on the abuse allegations.
On June 4, UNHCR reported the case of a 22-year-old Syrian man who drowned in the Tisza River on June 1 after uniformed personnel allegedly pushed him back to prevent his crossing the border illegally from Serbia. The HHC reported that police opened a public administration proceeding on the basis of unnatural death and, separately, the Szeged Investigative Prosecutor’s Office began a criminal investigation against unknown perpetrators for mistreatment during official proceedings. Police terminated the public administration proceeding on September 26. On October 25, the prosecutor’s office terminated the investigation based on lack of evidence that a crime had been committed. On December 21, the HHC filed a complaint against the prosecutorial decision to terminate the investigation, which remained pending at the Office of the Prosecutor General.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Overcrowding and poor physical conditions remained problematic in the prison system, potentially subjecting inmates to inhuman and degrading treatment. There were occasional reports of physical violence by prison guards; prisoner-on-prisoner violence; and instances of authorities holding pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners together, as well as juveniles with adults.
Physical Conditions: The HHC reported that the high level of overcrowding in penitentiaries continued to constitute a serious human rights problem.
As of November 8, there were 18,146 inmates in prisons and detention centers, including 1,333 women and 299 juveniles; the official capacity of these facilities was 13,771. The prison population increased to 132 percent of capacity, compared with 127 percent at the end of 2015. On March 7, the Council of Europe released its annual penal statistics report, which stated that the country’s prisons were severely overcrowded, with an occupancy rate of 142 percent in 2014.
On January 7, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in five cases of 49 prisoners, ordering the government to pay 692,000 euros ($761,000) in compensation for degrading treatment due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. In March 2015 the ECHR issued a pilot judgment in a similar case of six prisoners and concluded that the overcrowding of penitentiaries was a structural problem in the country. The ECHR consequently called on the government to produce a timeframe for introducing preventive and compensatory remedies that would provide effective redress for human rights violations stemming from prison overcrowding. On October 25, parliament amended the law, effective January 2017, to introduce state compensation of 1,200 to 1,600 forints ($4.30-5.70) per day to prisoners for degrading treatment due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Detainees must request such compensation at the prison of their detention within six months of the termination of the holding conditions that violated fundamental rights, and a judge specializing in detention decides the claim. In response to the newly introduced domestic remedies, on November 8, the ECHR decided to suspend until August 2017 the pending applications brought before the court, numbering approximately 6,800, concerning conditions of detention.
On May 23, the ombudsman released an OPCAT report on the Somogy County Prison in Kaposvar that strongly criticized the practice of ordering prisoners in groups to undress in the prison’s chapel for full body searches. The report also noted poor physical and hygienic conditions; prisoner-on-prisoner violence; verbal and physical violence against inmates by one prison warden; racism and sexism by several prison wardens; and the failure to separate minor and adult inmates.
A 2010 order of the national police chief requires law enforcement personnel to be present when medical staff examine detainees, making exceptions only when the inmate or doctor so requests and if permitted by the senior guard supervisor. The HHC continued to object that detainees who alleged physical mistreatment usually were examined only by internal medical staff. According to the HHC, security personnel were present less frequently during medical examinations in penitentiary institutions.
As of November 25, 53 deaths took place in prisons and six in pretrial detention. Of the 59 deaths, 51 were natural deaths and seven were suicides. In each case, internal investigations followed the incident but, as of November 28, no staff member of the penitentiary has been found responsible.
On November 12, the Central Investigative Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation for mistreatment in an official proceeding against four prison officers in connection with the death of a 44-year-old prisoner on November 12 in the Budapest High and Medium Security Prison. On November 17, the prison commander suspended the four prison wardens and one other staff member at the medical unit for two months and launched disciplinary procedures against them (see also section 1.a.).
The HHC continued to report unsatisfactory physical conditions in certain penitentiaries, including the presence of bedbugs and other insects. Sanitation and toilet facilities were also poor and insufficient in number in some cases. In some prisons, toilets were not separated from living spaces. The HHC also noted frequent shortages in natural light and artificial lighting in cells and a lack of adequate heating. There continued to be a shortage of psychological care.
Administration: NGOs reported that authorities occasionally failed to investigate fully credible allegations of mistreatment. There was no separate ombudsperson for prisons, but detainees could submit complaints to the commissioner for fundamental rights (ombudsman) or to the prosecutor’s office responsible for supervising the lawfulness of detention. The ombudsman handled prison complaints and conducted ex officio inquiries but had no authority to act on behalf of prisoners.
Independent Monitoring: The National Police Headquarters (ORFK) permitted independent monitoring of detention conditions by the HHC and international human rights groups. The HHC carried out regular monitoring visits to penal institutions based on a cooperation agreement concluded with the National Penitentiary Headquarters. The HHC reported that it conducted four visits to prisons through the end of October.
Improvements: During the year prison capacity increased by 146 inmate spaces, reducing overcrowding.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention. There were reports authorities did not always observe these prohibitions.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The ORFK, under the direction of the minister of interior, is responsible for maintaining order nationwide. The country’s 19 county police departments and the Budapest police headquarters are directly subordinate to the ORFK. City police have local jurisdiction but are subordinate to the county police. Two other units are directly subordinate to the minister of interior: the Counterterrorism Center (commonly known by its Hungarian acronym “TEK”) and the National Protective Service (NPS). The TEK is responsible for protecting the prime minister and the president and for preventing, uncovering, and detecting terrorist acts, including kidnappings, hijackings, and other offenses related to such acts, and arresting the perpetrators. The NPS is responsible for preventing and detecting internal corruption in law enforcement agencies, government administrative agencies, and civilian secret services. Both the TEK and the NPS are empowered to gather intelligence and conduct undercover policing, in certain cases without prior judicial authorization.
Concerning the national intelligence services, the Constitution Protection Office and the Special Service for National Security are under the supervision of the minister of interior and responsible for domestic intelligence.
On June 7, parliament adopted a law creating a new national security service entity, the Counterterrorism Information and Crime Analysis Center (TIBEK), under the direct supervision of the minister of interior. TIBEK can establish unlimited connections between its data management system and that of the other intelligence agencies. TIBEK has no authority to conduct secret information gathering activities and has no access to information collected by the NPS on police officers. TIBEK started operation on July 7.
The Hungarian Defense Force is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and is responsible for external security as well as aspects of domestic security and disaster response. Since September 2015, under a declared state of emergency prompted by mass migration, defense forces may assist law enforcement forces in border protection and handling mass migration (see also section 2.d., Access to Asylum).
On June 7, parliament amended the constitution to create a new “threat of terror” state of emergency. Under the provision, in the event of an act of terror or its considerable and immediate danger, parliament, at the initiative of the cabinet, can declare a state of emergency due to a threat of terror with the support of two-thirds of members of parliament present. After the cabinet initiates the announcement of the special legal order at parliament, the cabinet can issue decrees to suspend the application of or to derogate from certain laws, or take other extraordinary measures for up to 15 days before the special legal order must be confirmed by a two-thirds parliamentary vote. Such measures may include tightening border controls, transferring air traffic control to the military, deploying armed forces and law enforcement forces to protect critical infrastructure, and taking special counterterrorism measures. The amendment specifies that the cabinet can deploy armed forces domestically only if the use of law enforcement and national intelligence agencies are insufficient under the threat of terror.
Organized citizen groups, such as neighborhood and town watches, played a significant role in helping police prevent crime and maintain public security. The law requires neighborhood watch groups to complete a formal cooperation agreement with relevant police departments and imposes fines for any failure of cooperation. The prosecutor’s office maintained legal control over the operation of the neighborhood watch groups and could initiate legal proceedings in court if a group lacked a formal cooperation agreement with police.
Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over law enforcement and the armed forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Military prosecutors are responsible for investigating abuses by military, police, penitentiary staff, parliamentary guards, clandestine services, and disaster units.
There were reports of impunity involving security forces during the year, concerning allegations of abuse and violence by law enforcement officials against migrants and asylum seekers entering the country irregularly from Serbia (see section 1.c.). The HHC also noted a large disparity between the number of indictments of official persons (such as police officers and penitentiary staff) alleged to have committed abuses and the indictment of persons alleged to have committed violent acts against officials. Through the end of October, approximately 4.8 percent of complaints of mistreatment in official proceedings by members of the security forces resulted in indictments, while 69 percent of alleged acts of violence against official persons resulted in indictments.
The HHC also criticized the right of the minister of interior to determine the eligibility of police officers and penitentiary staff members to continue service in their full capacities after being convicted of crimes, including mistreatment of defendants during official proceedings or forced interrogation. In 2015 the minister permitted four police officers convicted for mistreatment in official proceedings and two officers convicted for forced interrogation to continue in service.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Police are obligated to take into “short-term arrest” individuals who are apprehended committing a crime or are subject to an arrest warrant. Police may take into short-term arrest individuals who are suspected of having committed a crime or a petty offense or are unable or unwilling to identify themselves. Police may also take into short-term arrest unaccompanied minors who are suspected of having run away from parental authority or guardianship. Short-term arrests generally last up to eight hours but may last up to 12 hours in exceptional cases. Police may hold persons under “detention for the purposes of public safety” for 24 hours if the identification of the person concerned so requires. Detention of conditionally released persons who abscond from probation, or may reasonably be expected to do so, may last up to 72 hours. Police, a prosecutor, or a judge may order detention of suspects for 72 hours if there is a well-founded suspicion of an offense that is punishable by imprisonment and the subsequent pretrial detention of the defendant appears likely. A prosecutor must file a motion with an investigatory judge requesting pretrial detention prior to the lapse of the 72-hour detention or release the detainee. A defendant may appeal a pretrial detention order.
Police must inform suspects of the charges against them at the beginning of their first interrogation, which must be within 24 hours of detention. Authorities generally respected this right.
There is a functioning bail system. According to the HHC, bail and other alternatives to pretrial detention were underused.
By law, police must inform suspects of their right to counsel before questioning them. Representation by defense counsel is mandatory in the investigative phase if suspects face a charge punishable by more than five years’ imprisonment; are already incarcerated; are deaf, blind, unable to speak, or have a mental disability; are unfamiliar with the Hungarian language or the language of the procedure; are unable to defend themselves in person for any reason; are juveniles; or are indigent and request the appointment of a defense counsel. When defense counsel is required, suspects have three days to hire an attorney, otherwise police or the prosecutor appoint one. If suspects make clear their unwillingness to retain counsel, police or the prosecutor are required to appoint counsel (ex officio) immediately by choosing a lawyer from a list kept by a competent bar association. The HHC continued to criticize the system of ex officio legal representation on the basis that the quality of “in-house” ex officio defense counsels appointed by authorities was generally substandard.
By law, neither police nor the prosecutor are obligated to wait for counsel to arrive before interrogating a suspect. In 2013 the Constitutional Court noted that the absence of mandatory defense counsel at the first interrogation of a criminal suspect due to police failure to provide timely notification of the date and place of the session violated the constitutional right to defense counsel. The court ruled that any statement made by a suspect in the absence of legal counsel may not be considered as evidence during the criminal proceeding. Human rights NGOs continued to report, however, that police routinely proceeded with interrogation in the absence of defense counsel immediately after notifying suspects of their right to counsel.
The law permits short-term detainees to notify relatives or others of their detention within eight hours unless the notification would jeopardize the investigation. Investigative authorities must notify relatives of a person under “72-hour detention” of the detention and the detainee’s location within 24 hours. A 2014 report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted a lack of immediate notification of relatives of those in 72-hour detention and criticized the 24-hour deadline as excessively long.
Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrests. During the first eight months of the year, the Office of the Prosecutor General initiated indictment in one case of alleged arbitrary arrest, rejected official complaints of arbitrary detention in 30 cases, and closed the investigations without filing charges in 15 cases.
Pretrial Detention: Under certain conditions (involving a risk of a detainee escaping, committing a new offense, reoffending, hindering an investigation, or colluding with co-perpetrators), a prosecutor may file a motion with an investigatory judge to order pretrial detention. Criminal proceedings for cases where the accused is in pretrial detention take priority over other types of expedited hearings. A detainee may appeal pretrial detention.
The HHC reported that authorities generally failed to conduct procedures in a timely manner and with due diligence for defendants in pretrial detention. The law, in certain cases, does not limit the duration of pretrial detention, including when the criminal offense is punishable by more than 15 years’ imprisonment, pending a trial court judgment. In March 2015 the ombudsman initiated a case at the Constitutional Court that would restore the general four-year limit on pretrial detention that was in effect prior to 2013 for persons accused of crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than 15 years. The Constitutional Court’s response remained pending at the end of November.
The HHC reported there was a 24 percent decrease in prosecutorial motions seeking a court order of pretrial detention from 2013 to 2015. The number of pretrial detainees was 21 percent lower at the end of 2015 compared to the end of 2013. According to the HHC, prosecutorial motions to order pretrial detention during the investigative phase of the proceeding had a success rate greater than 90 percent in many counties, with a national success rate of 87.7 percent in 2015. According to the National Penitentiary Headquarters, as of November 8, authorities held 3,228 persons in pretrial detention, which was 17.7 percent of the overall number of people in detention. Of these, 704 had been incarcerated for six months to a year and 603 had been held for more than a year.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The defendant, defense council, or prosecution in a judicial proceeding may at any point move to have the defendant released from pretrial detention. The court must examine the motion on its merits and make a reasoned decision. The defendant may submit a complaint to police or the prosecution against the decision when placed in 72-hour detention. Submitting such a complaint does not suspend detention. Any person who believes that short-term arrest by police violates his or her fundamental rights may file a complaint with the police unit responsible or with the independent police complaints board.
The law provides that persons held in pretrial detention or under house arrest and later acquitted may receive monetary compensation.
Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: The law permits the detention of rejected asylum seekers who were in detention during their asylum procedure and whose deportation was pending or who declined to leave the country voluntarily within a prescribed period. Authorities may also order the detention of rejected asylum seekers whom authorities suspect are at risk of fleeing following the rejection of their asylum application. Authorities may place rejected asylum seekers in “immigration detention” for a maximum of 12 months (30 days in cases of families with children).
The HHC reported that immigration detention generally took place in immigration detention centers. The HHC continued to criticize the general practice of placing handcuffs and leashes on immigrant detainees when they leave detention center premises under police escort or with armed security guards without any individualized assessment of the risk posed by the individual.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary. Courts often functioned independently, but attempts to exert political influence over the judiciary occurred. NGOs and international organizations continued to assert that laws on the judicial system adopted in 2011-13 contributed to weakened checks and balances by restricting the competence of the Constitutional Court, altering rules for electing Constitutional Court justices, and vesting the president of the National Office for the Judiciary (NOJ) with significant decision-making power. Government officials occasionally publicly criticized nonfinal court rulings.
By law, the Constitutional Court does not have competence to review potentially unconstitutional legislation with budgetary impact if the legislation is adopted when the state debt exceeds 50 percent of GDP. This limitation remains in effect for previously adopted laws, even if the state debt were to fall below 50 percent. The law provides that a committee consisting of members of party factions proportionate to their representation in parliament has the right to nominate, with a two-thirds majority, a Constitutional Court justice. A two-thirds majority in parliament must endorse a nominee in order to be elected as a Constitutional Court justice, whose term is 12 years. Prior to the governing coalition’s loss of its two-thirds majority in parliament in March 2015, the law allowed the governing parties the necessary two-thirds majority in both the nominating committee and the assembly. During this period, the Fidesz-KDNP majority elected 12 Constitutional Court justices. As of April 21, four of the 15 seats were vacant (including that of the court president) following the end of the terms of sitting justices. On November 22, parliament elected four new justices and a new court president to the Constitutional Court upon the joint nomination of the governing parties and the opposition Politics Can Be Different party.
On June 23, the ECHR confirmed in a final ruling that the dismissal of Andras Baka in 2011 from the posts of president of the former Supreme Court and president of the National Council of Justice violated his rights of access to a court and freedom of expression. The ECHR stated that the premature termination of the applicant’s mandate as president of the Supreme Court was not reviewed, nor was it open to review, by an ordinary tribunal or other body exercising judicial powers. According to the ECHR, this lack of judicial review was the result of legislation whose compatibility with the requirements of the rule of law was doubtful. The ECHR also concluded that the premature termination of his mandate was prompted by views and criticisms that he had publicly expressed in his professional capacity concerning the acts passed after 2010 that affected the judicial system. The ECHR noted that it was not only his right but also his duty as president of the National Council of Justice to express his opinion on legislative reforms affecting the judiciary.
In December 2015 the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) released a report that concluded the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law were under threat. The IBAHRI report sharply criticized the nomination procedure for Constitutional Court justices and the reduced authority of the Constitutional Court. IBAHRI also concluded that the functions of the National Judicial Council were insufficient to oversee the activities of the president of the NOJ. IBAHRI expressed concern that the council was too weak to function as an independent body for judicial self-regulation as intended and that the Constitutional Court’s ability to protect the rights guaranteed by the constitution was restricted. IBAHRI also found the ombudsman interpreted the office’s mandate too narrowly when seeking to bring cases before the Constitutional Court. The Ministry of Justice rejected IBAHRI’s criticisms and asserted that the legal framework provided sufficient protections against potential direct or indirect governmental interference in the operation of the judiciary. On October 5, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the Universal Periodic Review of Hungary, which included a recommendation that the government should implement reforms on judicial independence and rule of law recommended by the IBAHRI in 2015.
Government officials at times gave statements in their official capacities that were widely seen as attempts to influence judicial decisions and challenge the concept of judicial independence. In one example, on January 28, Bence Tuzson, state secretary for government communication of the prime minister’s cabinet office, publicly criticized a ruling of the Veszprem Tribunal, stating “the cabinet finds it outrageous that no one is held responsible for a case of such weight as the toxic sludge disaster, which claimed 10 human lives” in 2010. Tuzson stated that the cabinet “strongly urges” authorities to appeal the verdict because “the truth shall be revealed.” On January 31, vice president and deputy faction leader of Fidesz, Szilard Nemeth, announced that Fidesz was initiating a debate in the Justice Committee of parliament in connection with the toxic red sludge case and a high-profile misappropriation case involving the former Socialist deputy mayor of Budapest. Nemeth asserted that ordinary people were “justifiably outraged” by both verdicts and called the independence of judges a “liberal requirement.” No such meeting had taken place at the Judiciary Committee as of the end of November. On February 1, Peter Darak, president of the Curia, stated that “judicial judgement free from all external influence is under absolute constitutional protection, therefore statements suggesting contrary expectations undermine the foundation of a state governed by the rule of law.” He added that it was particularly important that the other branches of government refrain from such statements. On February 2, Tunde Hando, president of NOJ, also urged representatives of the other branches of power to respect the independence of judges.
During the year Transparency International Hungary (TI-H) repeated concerns expressed by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) in 2012 in connection with “the high level of independence of the prosecutor general, which is reinforced by his or her strong hierarchical control over all other prosecutors.” TI-H criticized the right of the prosecutor general to give instructions to subordinate prosecutors in individual cases, to take over any case from any prosecutor, and to reassign cases to different prosecutors at any stage of the procedure without providing any reasoning. In addition, TI-H criticized the lack of an independent forum where decisions by prosecutors not to bring cases to court may be challenged. In July 2015 the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe released a report expressing concern that the prosecutor general may remain in office indefinitely after the expiration of his or her nine-year term until parliament elects a successor by a two-thirds majority vote. According to GRECO, this procedure considerably increased the influence of politics in the selection of a prosecutor general (see section 4).
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Suspects have the right to be informed promptly of the nature of charges against them and of the applicable legal regulations, with free interpretation as necessary. Trial proceedings are public, although a judge may minimize public attendance and may order closed hearings under certain conditions. Trials generally occurred without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial. Immediately after defendants are informed of the charges against them, they must be advised of their right to choose a defense counsel or to request the appointment of one. If the participation of the defense counsel is mandatory in the procedure, defendants must be informed that, unless they retain defense counsel within 72 hours, the prosecutor or the investigating authority will appoint counsel for them at public expense. If a defendant declares that he or she does not wish to retain counsel, the prosecutor or the investigating authority appoints counsel immediately.
The law stipulates that the investigating authority shall schedule the time of the interrogation in a way that enables defendants to exercise their right to a defense. In the trial phase, a summons for the court hearing must be delivered at least five days prior to the hearing. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. During trial, defendants and their legal counsel have complete access to evidence held by the prosecution that is relevant to their cases. Defendants may challenge or question witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law states that no one may be compelled to provide self-incriminating testimony or produce self-incriminating evidence. Defendants have the right of appeal. These rights were extended to all citizens.
Human rights NGOs continued to criticize the legal measures available to authorities to prosecute and incarcerate juveniles under certain circumstances. The criminal code sets 12 as the minimum age at which authorities may prosecute juveniles for homicide, voluntary manslaughter, grievous assault, robbery, or plundering, but only if at the time of committing the criminal offense they had the capacity to understand its consequences. Under the rules, courts may not impose prison sentences on juveniles that were between the ages of 12 and 14 when allegedly committing the criminal offense, but they may order special measures, such as placement in a juvenile correctional institute. Pretrial detention for juveniles between the ages of 12 and 14 may not last more than one year and it is to take place in a juvenile correctional institute. For juveniles over the age of 14, the maximum length of detention is two years, and they may be placed in a juvenile correctional institute or penitentiary upon court decision. The law on petty offenses permits courts to incarcerate juveniles for up to 45 days; unpaid fines may also result in confinement. Rules on community service apply only to juveniles over the age of 16.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
By law, individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Individuals or organizations who have exhausted domestic legal remedies regarding violations of the European Convention on Human Rights allegedly committed by the state may appeal to the ECHR for redress.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
There is no requirement for prior judicial authorization of surveillance by TEK and sometimes by the national intelligence services in cases related to national security that involve prevention of terrorism or are related to rescuing citizens captured abroad in conflict zones or by terrorist groups. In such cases, the minister of justice (instead of a judge) issues a permit for the covert intelligence action for 90 days, with a possibility of extension. Such intelligence collection may involve secret house searches, surveillance with recording devices, opening of letters and parcels, and checking and recording electronic or computerized communications without the consent of the persons under investigation. This decision is not subject to appeal.
On January 12, the ECHR ruled (effective as of June 6) that the law authorizing the surveillance of citizens by law enforcement bodies without court approval constitutes a violation of the right to privacy. The ECHR found that the scope of the measures could allow them to be applied to virtually anyone; that the authorization of surveillance takes place entirely within the executive and without an assessment of strict necessity; that new technologies enable the government to intercept masses of data concerning persons outside the original range of operation; and that effective remedial measures are absent. Prior to the ECHR verdict, a 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court established that external control over any surveillance authorized by the minister was effectively exercised by parliament’s National Security Committee and the ombudsman. Parliament did not amend the law to introduce general mandatory judiciary approval to authorize secret surveillance during the year. On June 7, parliament amended the law to include digital communication service providers among the companies obligated to store and turn over metadata and communication content, except end-to-end encryption, to police, the TEK, intelligence services, and criminal investigators of the tax authority.
The City Is for All (AVM), a grassroots organization advocating for the rights of homeless persons, continued to report that police engaged in wide-ranging discrimination against the approximately 30,000 homeless persons in the country, one-third of whom lived in the capital. In March 2015 the AVM and the HHC jointly filed a case with the Equal Treatment Authority (ETA) alleging that police conducted excessive identification checks on homeless persons during a year-long participatory action research project by the AVM in 2014. On January 15, ETA concluded a formal agreement between the HHC and the Budapest Police Headquarters (BRFK). Based on this agreement, the BRFK issued a circular note on May 10 instructing Budapest police that identification checks are to be strictly purpose-limited proceedings prompted by specific circumstances and not subject persons to identity checks merely on the basis of the physical appearance of homelessness. Police also introduced the circular note in the training curricula of the most affected police officers. According to the AVM, the police circular note failed to reduce discriminatory police actions against homeless people effectively.