by dr. Tamás Gaudi-Nagy lawyer
This speech was told by Dr Gaudi-Nagy Tamás (managing leader of the Foundation for Legal Defense of Hungarians` Rights) in Geneva at a press conference organized by Club Suisse de la Presse under the title of: "Hungary: democracy under pressure"
First of all let me thank you for attending this press conference/event and your ambition to get a clear and objective view about the police brutality of autumn 2006 in Hungary.
I would like to outline the legal aspects of the violent actions committed by the Hungarian police against people during the autumn of 2006 from the point of view of a human rights activist and a lawyer, who defends the victims before the law.
"Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison" Citation from Resistance to Civil Government, or Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) American author and naturalist, Thoreau is considered one of the most influential figures in American thought and literature.
The disclosure of the Hungarian Prime Minister's (F. Gyurcsány) secret speech addressed to his party members caused anger last year throughout in Hungary, since he admitted the government has kept on lying during the last one and a half year and gained the power at the last election by misleading people telling lies them about the real state of the economy and their programs.
In the course of the large number of processes initiated by the police, public prosecutors and the courts related the demonstrations started on 17th September 2006, the constitutional principles, prescriptions of international conventions and national law on human rights were seriously infringed in several occasions. In accordance with the provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the constitution of Hungarian Republic guarantees the right of assembly in conformity with international standards .
However the events of autumn 2006 are questioning the predominance of the principle of rule of law in Hungary. Between 18-21 September 2006 and 23-24 October 2006, the disproportionate and many cases unnecessary dispersing of the crowd by the police, the human rights abuses, unjustified violence of the police, enforcement actions, application of custody without any legal basis in many cases, all support that most of these acts were the part of repression against the people who expressed their negative opinion disapproving the government. For this reason, the Committee Against Torture CAT of the United Nations also expressed its concern in November 2006.
Alarming signs are indicating that legal proceeding as a consequence of the demonstrations are ending up in retorsion. During this period policemen of the Hungarian Police or more precisely persons wearing police uniforms committed large number of criminal offences and breached the strict provisions of the laws that regulate the operation of the police in such cases.
On 23d October 2006, what happened in Budapest, it was an extraordinary and intimidating (frightening) series of police measures. Against the peaceful crowd, that practised the right of assembly, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the revolution in 1956 fight for freedom, rubber bullets, water cannons, tear-gas grenades, infantry and mounted police beating the people with the flat of sword, causing many serious injuries including permanent deficiency; over 100 persons wounded. The police did not protect the people participating and leaving a legal peaceful commemoration, but they are treated them as criminal participants of an unauthorised protest . The police did respect the principle of necessity and proportionality, as well as the strict rules of breaking up a crowd.
On the uniform of the policeman there were no identification badges that should have been required by the law and many of them wore face-guard (mask), that makes their identification and punishment extremely difficult. This day over 100 person was arrested, and against many of them were criminal procedures or misdemeanour proceedings started.
The Foundation for Legal Defence of Hungarians` Rights (www.nemzetijogvedo.hu) filed a complaint to the public prosecutor`s office on 5th December 2006 concerning 20 different kind of criminal offences committed by the police during the aggressive actions against demonstrators and commemorating people. According to our latest information, more than 171 complaints were filed because of brutal police actions, however only 18 policemen are under suspicion up till now.
Criminal procedures were initiated related to the demonstrations (manifestations) against almost 500 arrested persons on the basis of affray (disturbance of peace)- punishment: 2 year imprisonment for the basic form, in case of commitment of this offence in group punishment: 3 year imprisonment), violence against an official person (punishment: 3 year imprisonment for the basic event, in case of commitment in group and armed manner punishment: 5 year imprisonment) damaging. Even in many cases misdemeanour proceedings were started on the basis of breach of peace (punishment 60 day long imprisonment or fine 1000 CHF).
Vast majority of charged persons have not taken part in any violent action, just stood or walked peacefully in the area where police attacks were performed and they have not endangered public order at all.
The Foundation for Legal Defence of Hungarians` Rights is keep on trying to support legal aid as much as possible for persons being under legal procedures related to the demonstrations, our lawyers are working currently in more than 50 cases.
Most of our clients were in custody for averagely 15 days, nevertheless as of today, most of them have been released. First instance courts condemned altogether 149 persons for custody, from the large number of arrested persons in most cases in lack of appropriate evidences and legal requirements. The public prosecution office initiated custody against innocent persons or persons committed only moderately dangerous or serious acts. The custody - even for a short period of time- for a young person with regular, orderly life, working or studying normally, can cause irreparable disadvantages. Luckily enough, the second instance courts have corrected: 80% of the persons kept in custody have been released. Released people reported alarming and shocking incidents happened in the jails about humiliating and inhuman treatments and even tortures, these abuses of rights are being investigated and the relevant organisations are being informed.
Up to now, only one final judgement has been delivered in the case of a professional solder, who participated in a demonstration, but did not attacked the police, nevertheless was sentenced for one year imprisonment, in an accelerated process Our human right defence activity for the sake of the victims is hindered by many different more difficult circumstances. First of all the identification of policemen who committed crimes against a lot of people is difficult, in many cases almost impossible. As well there are few evidences are available to prove the innocence of the suspected persons. In many cases the only incriminating evidence is from the report and testimony of the policeman who attacked and arrested the victims.
Quite typical, that the suspected person is only an outside observer, a person being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a person with regular life, normal life-style (university student, employee), a person with clean record, those has nothing to do any violent action. Many of them were arrested alone, but during the procedure they found themselves together with other unknown persons charged with riots in group assaulting the policemen. For example the suspects accused of the damaging of the soviet military monument on the Freedom Square only appear on photos standing close to the obelisk , but there are no direct evidence against them- however they were arrested and brought into custody as well.
Our legal protection activity has already yield significant results: in case of several suspected persons the public prosecution office has ceased the procedure. The court has already ceased several misdemeanour proceedings without applying any punishment. For the sake of receiving compensation for several seriously injured demonstrators we started legal actions against the police and made complaints against violent and brutal policemen. We started legal actions for the declaration of the unlawful break-up of demonstrations by the court .
Geneva, 22nd January 2007.