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Home » COVID-19 should not be used to restrict human rights as Hungary seeks indefinite state of emergency

COVID-19 should not be used to restrict human rights as Hungary seeks indefinite state of emergency

Justice and Peace has joined other organisations including the Netherlands Helsinki Committee in signing a petition concerning the ‘Bill on Protection against the Coronavirus’ in Hungary.

Earlier this week, the Hungarian government sent a bill to Parliament to seek an open-ended extension to the current state of emergency. If passed, this would thereby grant the government far-reaching powers without any prospect of an end date including the ability to by-pass Parliament. The proposed bill will be put to the vote next week.

Justice and Peace, together with other organisations, calls on the Hungarian government to set a clear end date in their proposed bill seeking an indefinite extension to the current state of emergency in Hungary in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This petition was on the initiative of the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC). To read the official statement, continue below or download the statement here. 

Official Statement

Undersigned organizations share the concern of Hungarian civil society expert organisations[1] about the indefinite extension of emergency powers to the Hungarian government in the proposed Bill on Protection against the Coronavirus. Any emergency that may be adopted should come with clear time limit on these emergency powers, with a review taking place in case prolongation is proposed. Fundamental protections included in the Constitution and international standards, especially the requirement that any exceptional measure be not only necessary and proportionate, but also non-discriminatory and time-bound  should be upheld, even in case of emergency, and an effective and independent mechanism should be created to judge whether government measures are within the bounds of the Constitution. Therefore, a procedure should be defined for rapid review by the Constitutional Court to decide on petitions related to the special legal order and individual measures taken thereunder.

We call on Hungarian government and legislators to stick to these standards in any emergency legislation relating to the Corona virus situation. We call on both the central institutions of the European Union and on the Union’s member states to stipulate that emergency legislation relating to the Corona crisis will be limited in time and adhering to standards of necessity and proportionality that should be tested in an expedited legal process and that it is promptly notified to relevant international human rights protection mechanisms  whenever they result in a limitation of other fundamental rights, as required under international law. The current exceptional circumstances require strong rule of law safeguards next to proportional and necessary emergency measures to ensure that human rights are at the centre of any response to the crisis, not unlimited government rule by decree that can last beyond the actual epidemic crisis and threaten our democracies well beyond the current situation.

Albanian Helsinki Committee
Amnesty International Netherlands
Armenian Helsinki Committee
Article 19 (UK)
Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement
Austrian Helsinki Association
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Brot für die Welt (Germany)
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
Centre de la Protection Internationale (France)
Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
Civil Rights Defenders (Sweden)
Crude Accountability (USA)
DRA German-Russian Exchange (Germany)
Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten – Dutch Section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM)
Państwo Foundation (Poland)
European Civic Forum (Belgium)
Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum
Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands)
Helsinki Association for Human Rights (Armenia)
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor (Armenia)
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
Human Rights First (USA)
Human Rights House Zagreb
Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)
Human Rights Watch (Europe office)
Humanrights.ch (Switzerland)
IDP Women Association “Consent” (Georgia)
International Commission of Jurists
International Foundation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties (CILD)
Justice and Peace (Netherlands)
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM (Serbia)
Legal Transformations Center – LAWTREND (Belarus)
Macedonian Helsinki Committee
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Open Society European Policy Institute (Belgium)
PAX (Netherlands)
People in Need (Czech Republic)
Promo-LEX Association (Moldova)
Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
Social Action Centre (Ukraine)
Swedish OSCE-Network
Swiss Helsinki Committee
The Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino (Kyrgyzstan)
Union Women of the Don (Russia)
World Organisation Against Torture, OMCT (Switzerland)
ZARA (Austria)

Contact for this statement: Pepijn Gerrits, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, pgerrits@nhc.nl, +31703926700

[1] Amnesty International, Eötvös Károly Institute, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, “Unlimited Power is Not the Panacea,” 22 March 2020, accessed on: https://www.helsinki.hu/wp-content/uploads/Unlimited-power-is-not-the-panacea-20200322.pdf