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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

European Human Rights Court Raps Hungary

(CN) - Hungarian officials violated citizens' right to peaceful assembly by routinely refusing to authorize demonstrations and declaring the area in front of the Parliament in Budapest a "security operational zone," the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.

Freedom of assembly and association is guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1950.

Two separate actions were leveled against Hungary in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Szabolcs Szerdahelyiand István Patyiwere denied permission to stage demonstrations on Kossuth Square in Budapest in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

In both cases, the Budapest Police Department refused to deal with the applications, claiming that the square was outside its jurisdiction. In both cases, requests for judicial review by Hungary's regional court were unsuccessful.

The Hungarian Supreme Court found for Szerdahelyi and remanded the case to the regional court, but application proceedings were interrupted by his death in 2009.

Patyi's request was dismissed by the regional court in 2008.

In both cases, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the Hungarian government's objections that Szerdahelyi and Patyi had not exhausted domestic remedies, and that the men had not challenged the decision to declare Kossuth Square a "security operational zone."

"Given the instantaneous nature of a political demonstration, a judicial procedure which ... was lengthy and had produced a final decision in the plaintiff's favor [after] more than four years could not be regarded as adequate and [has] a chilling effect on the right to freedom of assembly," the court wrote.

"Following the Hungarian courts' quashing of the police decisions ... [the court concludes] that the ban on demonstrations on Kossuth Square had been without a basis in Hungarian law. It was therefore unnecessary to examine whether the measure had a legitimate aim or had been necessary in a democratic society. There had accordingly been a violation of Article 11 in both cases," the court wrote.

The court ordered Hungary to pay Szerdahelyi's son 3,500 euros in damages and court expenses. Patyi will receive 3,900 euros.

Hungary has 90 days to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court of Human Rights. If no appeal is made or if the request is rejected by a five-judge panel of the Grand Chamber, the judgment becomes final.

The European Court of Human Rights was set up by the Council of Europe's member states in 1959, to deal with violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

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