Authorities to which one would file a complaint about police abuse or failure to take investigative action; complaints process; military prosecutor's offices; responsibilities in investigation; reports of harassment of complainants [HUN41291.E]

Complaints Process

The Prosecutor General's Office's (Legfobb Ügyészség, MKLU) (Hungary n.d.) oversees the Public Prosecutor's Office, which exercises general responsibility and supervision over the implementation of law and investigations, adjudicates complaints against the police and intervenes, when required, into investigations (HHC 5 July 2001, Sec. 1.5-1.6; Hungary 8 Feb. 2000). The Hungarian prosecutorial system is "highly hierarchical, [and] superior prosecutor[s] practically always" have the right to intervene in complaints submitted to subordinate prosecutors, which may result in local cases reaching the Chief Public Prosecutor's office (HHC 7 May 2003).

The Military Attaché of the Embassy of Hungary to Italy argued in 1998 that, legally, the investigation and prosecution of police officers falls under the jurisdiction of the military courts of Hungary when an alleged crime is committed either at the place of service or as a result of service (Italy 1998). The Military Prosecutor's Offices are located in Budapest, Debrecen, Gyor, Kaposvar and Szeged; they are part of the general public prosecutor's office, reporting to the Attorney General's office (ibid.). The MKLU also oversees the Military Prosecutor's offices-a hierarchy evidenced by a 1997 case in which the MKLU overruled a military prosecutor's decision and ordered the Budapest Military Prosecutor's office to commence criminal proceedings (RFE/RL 16 July 1997). With respect to investigations undertaken by the Military Prosecutors, Hungarian law enforcement specialist István Szikinger indicated that the Military Prosecution Service investigates only military felonies while "police superiors" investigate misdemeanours (HHC 5 July 2001, Sec. 3.9).

According to the International Projects Coordinator of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), when a local public prosecutor "obtains information about police misconduct that amounts to a criminal offence, he/she shall be obliged to record the fact and forward the complaint as a report to the Prosecutorial Investigative Office" (7 May 2003). The latter office decides whether to launch or refuse an investigation (HCC 7 May 2003). Szikinger noted, however, that the Public Prosecutors Service "usually" refers complaints of police misconduct back to the police chief in charge of the officer for investigation (GCDCAF Apr. 2002, 6). Moreover, Szikinger noted that, according to the Police Act of 1994, public complaints of police misconduct or non-investigation must be "submitted to the [police] unit employing the officer" accused (HHC 5 July 2001, Sec. 3.9). Thereafter, the police have the opportunity to challenge the complaint, and the public prosecutor will make the final decision (GCDCAF Apr. 2002, 5-6).

Should the Prosecutorial Investigative Office decide to forego an investigation, the complainant has the right to "file a complaint with the superior prosecutor and/or directly turn to the Prosecutorial Investigative Office" (HHC 7 May 2003). While the Code of Criminal Procedure does not specify whether a prosecutorial decision can be appealed, the International Projects Coordinator of HHC indicates that the Chief Public Prosecutor's Article of Direction 2/1999 on the supervision of investigations allows for this possibility (ibid.). Yet common practice for the Prosecutor's Investigative Office suggests that "no further complaint can be pursued" once a decision is made, and the average complainant may be "discouraged ... from submitting further complaints" (ibid.). Moreover, Szikinger argued in 2002 that the public prosecutor's office was unable to provide regular intervention into police action and that there was no institutionalized external control of the complaint process (GCDCAF Apr. 2002, 6). In 2000, András Kádár of the HHC stated that authorities-here including senior police officers and the prosecutor's office-were "not willing to take firm action" in cases of police misconduct (HHC Oct. 2000, 2).

The Research Directorate was unable to find references to the specific procedural requirements by which one must submit a complaint among the sources consulted. Reports indicate that complaints in person (HCM 27 Mar. 2000), by legal representatives (HHC 2000) and by fax are accepted (HCM 27 Mar. 2000).

'Ex Officio' Investigations

HHC reported that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights (Civil Rights Ombudsman) initiated an "ex officio" investigation into a case of police mistreatment in 2000 (HHC 2000). The annual reports of the Civil Rights Ombudsman (1999-2002), indicated that the office received complaints from the public concerning police behaviour (Hungary 2002, Sec. 4; ibid. 30 May 2001, Sec. 9; ibid. 2000a, Sec. 9). The Commissioner noted in 2000 that recommendations made following upon investigations were "generally accepted" by public prosecutors in 1999 (ibid.). In 2000, the Public Prosecutor accepted three protests initiated by the Civil Rights Ombudsman (ibid. 30 May 2001, Table 2), while, in 2001, three protests were accepted and a fourth rejected by the Public Prosecutor (ibid. 2002, Table 2).

Also working under the auspices of the Parliamentary Commissioner's office, the Commissioner for Ethnic and National Minorities (Minorities Ombudsman) investigates infringements on the rights of national and ethnic minorities, and offers an avenue of complaint to anyone injured as a result of acts or omissions by public authorities, provided all other legal solutions fail to provide remedy (OSI 9 July 2001, 253). The Minorities Ombudsman may investigate the armed forces, national security services and the police and, upon review of available evidence, may file a motion with the Constitutional Court, lodge a protest with a public prosecutor or initiate criminal proceedings (ibid.). In 2000, the Minorities Ombudsman received 14 complaints concerning police actions, out of which 9 related to alleged physical abuse and harassment (Hungary 2000b, Sec. V.1).

Additionally, the Research Directorate found references to individuals seeking to initiate criminal proceedings against the police through the public prosecutor's complaints office. The Hungarian NGO Habeas Corpus Working Group (HCM), for example, reported a case where an HCM representative escorted a battered woman to the "complaints office of the Chief Public Prosecutor" in an effort to initiate an investigation and the detention of her husband (HCM 27 Mar. 2000). HCM further noted that the Chief Public Prosecutor advised the woman to contact the county public prosecutor's office with such requests (ibid.).

Complaint Statistics

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the HHC provided the following 2002 complaint statistics (8 May 2003):

Ill-treatment in official procedure:

reports: 759
investigation denied: 282 (37.2%)
investigation terminated: 397 (52.3%)
indictment: 72 (9.5%)

Forced interrogation:

reports: 321
investigation denied: 176 (54.8%)
investigation terminated: 121 (37.7%)
indictment: 24 (7.5%)

Unlawful detention:

reports: 93
investigation denied: 44 (47.3%)
investigation terminated: 42 (45.2%)
indictment: 7 (7.5%) (HHC 7 May 2003)

The Open Society Institute (OSI) reported that the public prosecutor's office received 1,133 complaints of "abuse of authority, maltreatment in official procedure, enforced interrogation and illegal detention" by police in 2000 (9 July 2001, 245). Statistics from 2000 show that "[o]n average, only 11 percent of reported cases of police mistreatment, and only eight percent of reported cases of forced interrogation result in formal charges" (OSI 9 July 2001, 245). In early 2002, OSI noted that an Ombudsman for National and Ethnic Minorities report stated that only 30 per cent of complaints filed with the prosecutor resulted in investigations and many cases remained outstanding (1 Nov. 2002, 282).

Reports of Harassment of Complainants by Officials

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) noted in a written submission to the 74th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in 2002, that "Roma and others who allege abuse by police and other officials are often intimidated and abused by the police" (18 Mar.-5 Apr. 2002, 6). The ERRC cited the 2000 Human Rights Watch report for Hungary that describes a March 1999 case in which police attacked a Roma man who alleged abuse in a televised interview (ERRC 18 Mar.-5 Apr. 2002 6n10). The HRW report also mentioned a June 2000 attack by the police against a Roma man who, when he threatened to report the incident, was beaten further by the police (HRW 2000).

In a May 2001 case, a police officer, after receiving a complaint by a Roma individual that another officer had failed to intervene while he and his four companions were threatened and subjected to abuse, reportedly stated in response: "'And you have not been shot dead? That is too bad … There was a police officer there and he didn't shoot you?'" (AI 2002). Furthermore, the officer receiving the report threatened to hit the complainant, and several of the victims of the original attack reported that the police had threatened them during the subsequent investigation (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Amnesty International (AI). 2002. "Hungary." In Amnesty International Report 2002. http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/4e9e3156549cbcae80256a4e00588885/d3a516892690f3e180256bc0003b38e2/$FILE/hungary.pdf [Accessed 5 May 2003]

European Roma Rights Center (ERRC). 18 March-5 April 2002. "Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Center Concerning the Republic of Hungary for Consideration by the United Nations Human Rights Committee at its 74th Session, 18 March-5 April 2002." http://www.errc.org/publications/legal/hrc_hungary_2002.rtf [Accessed 5 May 2003]

Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (GCDCAF). April 2002. István Szikinger. Armed Control of Civilian Forces in Hungary. Working Paper Series - No. 14. http://www.dcaf.ch/publications/Working_Papers/14.pdf [Accessed 15 Apr. 2003]

Habeas Corpus Working Group (HCM). 27 March 2000. Géza Juhász. "Terror and Helplessness - Authorities Ignore Child Rape." (Network of East-West Women/neww@neww.org 27 Mar. 2000) http://lists.partners-intl.net/pipermail/women-east-west/2000-March/000028.html [Accessed 22 Apr. 2003]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2000. "Hungary: Human Rights Developments." In Human Rights Watch World Report 2000. http://www.hrw.org/wr2k/Eca-11.htm [Accessed 5 May 2003]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). 8 May 2003. Correspondence with the International Projects Coordinator.

_____. 7 May 2003. Correspondence with the International Projects Coordinator.

_____. 5 July 2001. István Szikinger. "Country Report on the Hungarian Police." http://www.helsinki.hu/docs/huncountrep.doc [Accessed 21 Apr. 2003]

_____. October 2000. András Kádár. "Behavior of Police and Other Law Enforcement Officials." http://www.helsinki.hu/docs/pragalecture.doc [Accessed 21 Apr. 2003]

_____. 2000. "Two Cases of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee's Human Rights Legal Counseling Office." http://www.helsinki.hu/docs/casestudies.doc [Accessed 21 Apr. 2003]

Hungary. 2002. Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights. "The Experience of the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights in 2001: Summary." Edited by Barnabás Lenkovics and Albert Takács. http://www.obh.hu/allam/eng/2001/eng2001.htm [Accessed 30 Apr. 2003]
_____. 8 February 2000. Office of the National Council of Justice (ONCJ). "The Functioning of the Hungarian Judicial System." (Embassy of Hungary, Madrid) http://www.embajada-hungria.org/s/hun_pol_justice.htm [Accessed 30 Apr. 2003]