Hungary: Police corruption, including complaints mechanisms available to report instances of corruption; police effectiveness, including response to complaints submitted by Roma (2013-June 2015) [HUN105197.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview
1.1 Police Effectiveness

Information on the general effectiveness of the police was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. In a report on its mission to Hungary in 2013, the United Nations' Working Group on Arbitrary Detention states that the country has had "some improvements in political effectiveness over the past decade through reform of the judiciary and the civil service" as well as efforts to limit corruption (UN 3 July 2014 para. 123).

1.2 Police Corruption

Sources state that corruption in general "remains a problem" in Hungary (US 25 June 2015, 35; Freedom House 2015). Sources indicate that the penalties for police officers found guilty of misconduct include reprimand, dismissal, criminal prosecution (UN 3 July 2014, para. 29; US 25 June 2015, 9) and imprisonment if they are prosecuted and convicted (ibid.).

According to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, published by the US Department of State, in the first 9 months of 2014 the Ministry of Interior found "4,370 police officers responsible for breaches of discipline, 556 guilty of petty offenses, 279 guilty of criminal offences, and 14 unfit for duty" (ibid.). The same source further states that, within the same time period, 4 police officers were sentenced to prison terms, 16 were given suspended sentences, 115 were fined, 20 were dismissed, 15 were found guilty of corruption and 31 were placed on probation (ibid). Further and corroborating information on rates and types of police corruption could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, the National Protective Service (NPS) was created in 2011 to prevent and detect "internal corruption in law enforcement agencies, administrative government agencies, and civilian secret services" (ibid. 27 Feb. 2014, 7). The website of the NPS similarly indicates that it was established in January 2011 to "protect" the personnel of the civilian secret services, law enforcement agencies, and administrative government agencies from "dishonest colleagues" and the risk of "los[ing] their credibility and … the confidence of citizens" (Hungary n.d.a).

Without providing details, the 2014 Country Reports state that between September 2013 and the end of August 2014, the NPS conducted 880 "'integrity tests'" on the 93,000-member police forces and that 10 cases were referred to "investigative authorities" (US 25 June 2015, 36). The website of the NPS describes an integrity test as "a protective tool" that measures "the fulfilment of obligation in public services and in professional personnel of armed forces" (Hungary n.d.b). The same source explains that, during the test, the NPS "creates 'realistic conditions or situations' which could normally occur during the performance of the job"; the prosecutor supervising the integrity test approves the method chosen to be applied in the test (ibid.). The same source further states that an integrity test may be ordered up to three times a year, with each test lasting 15 days (ibid.). The person being tested "is not informed about the initiative of inquiry," though they will be "informed about its completion within three working days," regardless of the result (ibid.).

2. Complaints Mechanisms

According to a report on discrimination in Hungary, produced by the European Union's (EU) Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), an independent body of the EU that provides information to member states on issues of fundamental rights and Community law (UN n.d.),

[t]here is no specific complaints mechanism dealing with racist and related abuse by police officers … the options for victims to seek redress are limited. Nevertheless, if victims are subjected to abuses of police power that meet the threshold for criminal liability, they can file a report with the competent Prosecutorial Investigation Office. Abuses of power by police that are not regarded [as] a violation of fundamental rights are examined and decided upon by the head of [the] unit at the police responsible for the staff member against whom allegations of abuse were made. (EU 2013, 38)

Sources indicate that complaints can be brought to the relevant police unit or the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) (Council of Europe 30 Apr. 2014, para. 28; US 25 June 2015, 9; HHC 29 June 2015).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a civil society organization that monitors the human rights and legal situation in Hungary (HHC n.d.), stated that complaints can be submitted to the responsible police unit within 30 days of the alleged violation and that complaints can also be submitted "with the help of a legal representative" (HHC 29 June 2015). The representative added that the complaint is decided on by the head of the relevant police unit during an "administrative procedure" (ibid.). The complainant may appeal the "first instance decision," which is decided upon by the superior of the same police unit (ibid.). If the "first instance" decision was rendered by the "National Police Chief, the head of the department responsible for internal affairs, or the head of the counter-terrorism unit, no appeal may be submitted" (ibid.). In the cases of a "first instance" decision by aforementioned department heads, or a "second instance" decision, complainants may appeal to the courts (ibid.).

The same source further states that as a result of the police complaint being submitted to the police unit allegedly responsible for the incident, they "cannot be regarded as an independent forum for deciding upon the given complaint" and that this may have a negative impact on the effectiveness of "ordinary complaint procedures" (HHC 29 June 2015). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Transparency International (TI) Hungary, the "state institutions responsible for supervising the power exercised by the government are headed by government loyals" and consequently, "[t]he almost complete elimination of checks and balances poses a serious risk of corruption in itself" (11 Dec. 2013). Similarly, Freedom House reports that the government "has appointed allies to lead state agencies with anticorruption roles for very long terms — typically nine years" (2014, 284).

2.1 Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB)

According to sources, the IPCB is available to investigate police activity that violates fundamental rights (UN 3 July 2014, para. 26; US 27 Feb. 2014, 8; Hungary n.d.c).

According to the website of the IPCB, complaints must be filed, in person or in writing, within 20 days of the incident or 20 days of the time that the individual became aware of the infringement (ibid.). If there are extenuating circumstances that can be proven, such as a lengthy hospital stay, the time limit is extended (ibid.). The same source further states that if the 20-day deadline has passed, but not 30 days, an individual can file a complaint with "the head of the police office (Police Chief) of which subordinate has taken the challenged measures against the complainant" (ibid.).

The case will be forwarded by the IPCB to the relevant police organ if the board concludes that

  • there was no violation of a fundamental right
  • the infringement of a fundamental right cannot be decided because of the contradiction between the statement of the complainant and Police;
  • there was an insignificant infringement of fundamental rights. (ibid.)

Sources further state that, should the board find that a violation of fundamental rights has occurred, they submit a non-binding recommendation to the head of the National Police (ibid.; EU 2013, 38; US 27 Feb. 2014, 8). The website of the IPCB further states that while the resolution is non-binding, should the National Police reject the resolution, the rationale must be explained to the Board and that "[t]here is no right to appeal the administrational decision of the Head of the National Police Headquarters, but the complainant is entitled to challenge it before the court in the frames of an oversight proceeding" (Hungary n.d.c). A 2014 report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its visit to Hungary similarly states that "unlike the complainant, the Board may not lodge … an appeal and is not formally informed about the outcome of the court proceedings" (Council of Europe 30 Apr. 2014, para. 28). According to the HHC representative, in cases where the National Police Chief rejects the findings of the IPCB, the Board does not have the right to "interfere" with the judicial review of the Chief's decision and that it is up to the complainant "whether or not he/she refers to the IPCB's decision in a lawsuit" (HHC 29 June 2015).

According to the same source, the "[i]ncompatibility of proposed IPCB members is not regulated properly," as "Members of Parliament may be (and are) elected as members" of the IPCB, "which undermines the perceived independence of the body" (ibid.).

According to Country Reports for 2014, as of September of that year, the board received 289 complaints from the public and reviewed 72, some of which had been submitted in 2013 (US 25 June 2015, 9). Of those reviewed, it found three serious legal violations and six minor legal violations (ibid). In addition, eight cases were forwarded to the national police chief "who partially accepted the findings in one case and rejected the findings in two," with the remaining cases pending (ibid.). According to the HHC representative, in 2013 there were 375 complaints issued to the Board, 27 percent of which resulted in the IPCB establishing a violation of fundamental rights (HHC 29 June 2015). Out of those cases, 22 percent resulted in the National Police Chief "partially or fully agreeing with the IPCB" (ibid.).

2.2 The Equal Treatment Authority

According to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, the Equal Treatment Authority is an independent body established by the Hungarian government "to receive and deal with individual and public complaints about unequal treatment" and it reviews the complaints it receives to establish whether the law on equal treatment has been violated, including on the basis of ethnic origin (EU n.d.). The UN Working Group report similarly states that the Equal Treatment Authority is an independent body that was established "to protect, enforce and promote equality and the right to equal treatment by monitoring the observance" of the Equal Treatment Act (UN 3 July 2014, para. 27).

Further and corroborating information on the Equal Treatment Authority could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.3 The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights

According to the website of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the Commissioner took over from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights in 2012 and is tasked with ensuring the protection of "fundamental rights," including those of "nationalities living in Hungary [and] the rights of the most vulnerable social groups" (Hungary n.d.d). According to the same source, in 2012 a "unified Ombudsman institution" was created in order to replace the old structure, which had four Ombudsmen (Hungary 11 July 2012). The "Closing and Miscellaneous Provisions" of the Fundamental Law of Hungary provide the following:

16. As of the entry into force of the Fundamental Law, the designation for the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights shall be Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. The legal successor of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights, the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations shall be the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. As of the entry into force of the Fundamental Law, the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights in office shall become Deputy of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights responsible for the protection of the rights of nationalities living in Hungary; as of the entry into force of the Fundamental Law, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in office shall become Deputy of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights responsible for the protection of the interests of future generations; their mandates shall terminate upon the termination of the mandate of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. (Hungary 2011)

The Commissioner's website states that anyone can submit a complaint, orally or in writing, to the Commissioner if

the activity or omission of the public and/or other organs performing public duties … infringes a fundamental right of the person submitting the petition or presents an imminent danger. When the person reporting has exhausted the available administrative legal remedies, not including the judicial review of an administrative decision, or if no legal remedy is available to him or her. (Hungary n.d.d.)

Law enforcement is included among the list of applicable "organs" (ibid.). The same source further states that the Commissioner may not proceed when

  • more than a year has passed since the notification of a final administrative decision
  • the proceedings started after 23 October 1989
  • court proceedings have been started for the review of the decision or where a final court decision has been rendered
  • the identity of the person who has filed the petition has not been revealed by himself/herself. (ibid.)

A case will be rejected if "it does not meet the abovementioned requirements," if it is unfounded, if "a repeatedly submitted petition does not contain new facts or data on the substance," and if it is submitted anonymously or if the Commissioner determines that "the impropriety referred to in the petition is of minor importance" (ibid.).

Further and corroborating information on the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Resources Available for Assisting Individuals Filing a Complaint

According to the UN Working Group report, there are legal aid services available to "indigent persons with legal problems, which may also include the violation of the right of equal treatment" (UN 3 July 2014, para. 76). The HHC representative stated that complainants can be represented by "human rights NGOs or foundations, minority self-governments or certain law professors" and that legal aid services are available for "participation in the police complaints procedure" (HHC 29 June 2015). The same source further stated that if Legal Aid is granted, the complainant "may receive legal advice" in addition to having the legal aid provider complete the complaint submission for them (ibid.).

According to the HHC website, it offers legal assistance "regarding complaints concerning detention and police measures" (ibid. n.d.). In order to process an application for legal assistance, the applicant must submit a letter that outlines their case, including: personal information, the type of case requiring assistance (i.e. police treatment), time and place of the event, the authorities involved and whether the applicant has previously received legal aid (ibid.). The same source further states that the HHC will respond, in writing, to all requests for assistance within 60 days "if possible" (ibid).

Sources state that victims of hate crimes are unable to get sufficient support, including counselling and legal assistance (AI 6 Aug. 2013; Council of Europe 16 Dec. 2014, para. 85). According to the HHC representative, in 2013, seven percent of complainants involved in a complaints procedure before the IPCB had a legal representative (HHC 29 June 2015). She added that there is no data available on legal representation provided during "ordinary police complaint procedures" (ibid.).

4. Police Response to Complaints Submitted by Roma

The HHC representative stated that in Hungary, it is illegal "to record the complainants' ethnicity or perceived ethnicity" and as such, statistics are unavailable on the success rate of complaints submitted by Roma (ibid.). The UN Working Group report similarly states that there is a "lack of …data disaggregated by ethnicity" (UN 3 July 2014, para. 121).

4.1 Police Response to Hate Crimes

According to the BBC, in Hungary "[m]any people are not familiar with the concept of hate crime — the idea that the targeting of people because of the colour of their skin, their religious belief, or their sexual orientation is different to ordinary crime" (BBC 28 Apr. 2013).

According to sources, the police in Hungary lack both the resources and awareness of the proper procedures for investigating and responding to hate crimes (AI 6 Aug. 2013; Council of Europe 16 Dec. 2014, para. 85). The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe's report states that there is a high workload and turnover among those few who are trained in hate crime investigation, and that some public prosecutors are under pressure to "deliver results" and as such, "may prefer pressing charges in respect of basic crimes as they are easier to substantiate" (ibid.). The FRA report similarly states that, compared to other crimes, proving hate crime takes more time and resources and police offers "are often focused on closing cases quickly rather than on investing considerable resources in identifying bias motivations" (EU 2013, 37).

According to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe's report, police in Hungary have been given powers, in the form of new legal provisions, to counter the activities of paramilitary groups "engaging in racist violence and conducting certain activities such as patrolling areas inhabited by Roma" (Council of Europe 16 Dec. 2014, para. 81). The same source reports that a professional network has been set up among those within the national police that are responsible for "dealing with hate crimes" (ibid. para. 84). The report further states that "[d]espite these positive steps" the authorities are often criticized for not identifying and effectively responding to hate crimes, including "not investigating possible racial motivation" (ibid., para. 85). In 2013, 48 hate crimes were reported and 30 were prosecuted, "[h]owever … the majority of hate crimes are not recorded as such by the police or are not even reported to the police" (ibid.). The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) similarly reports that in 2013, 48 hate crimes were recorded by the police, 30 were prosecuted and 14 were sentenced (OSCE n.d.).

According to an article by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), a human rights "watchdog" that educates citizens about their rights and freedoms (HCLU n.d.), in September 2013 a busload of football fans had "stopped outside [of a] school, which has a large majority of Roma pupils" in Konyár (HCLU 12 Sept. 2013). The article states that according to the police report, the bus was on its way from Debrecen to Bucharest for a Romania-Hungary football match" and "no criminal or administrative offence happened" (ibid.). In contrast, the same source cites a fact-finding mission initiated by the HCLU and the Legal Defence Bureau of National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) as stating that the group "got off the bus and threatened the Romani school children" and "shouted racist, anti-Roma expressions" (ibid.). The same source adds that the village of Konyár "is not on a direct route from Debrecen to the Romanian border crossing" (ibid.). The article further states that earlier that year "a teacher at the school was dismissed after making racist comments about Roma on video" and that the former teacher was among those on the bus (ibid). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources state that in August 2012, in a demonstration organized by the Jobbik Party in the town of Devecser in response to an altercation between two groups (one Roma, the other non-Roma), participants marched through the Roma part of town shouting and throwing objects at the Roma houses; police did not dissolve the demonstration (BBC 1 Sept. 2012; AI 15 Aug. 2012; HHC 29 June 2015). The HHC representative stated that the HHC assisted two Roma victims in filing a police complaints procedure, whereby the police found that the "inaction of the police officers at the scene was lawful" (ibid). After an appeal and the "second instance" decision in August 2014,

[t]he National Police Headquarters claimed that any police action "would have caused a clash between the police and the demonstrators, which would have posed a direct threat not only to the participants of the event and the police forces, but also to the inhabitants" … the case is currently pending before the Curia (the highest judicial forum in Hungary). (ibid.)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the criminal code does not include "clear and express provisions under which the bias motive has to be taken into account as part of investigation or prosecution of other crimes, including murder" (Council of Europe 16 Dec. 2014, para. 82). The FRA report, in an interview with the Metropolitan Chief Prosecution Office, similarly states that "the notion of 'hate crime' is not explicitly recognized in Hungarian criminal law" (EU 2013, 37).

According to the FRA report, in January 2012 The Tackling Hate Crime Working Group was established by five NGOs and is working in cooperation with the police to develop "a protocol that can assist police in recognising, recording and investigating bias motivation effectively" (EU 2013, 38). The same source states that in September 2012 the HHC, NEKI, and Háttér also started a project to create "a national hate crime strategy and action plan" that will also involve cooperation between "police, prosecutors, judiciary, and victim support services" (ibid.). The OSCE similarly reports, citing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), that the NGO coalition "A Working Group Against Hate Crime" provides hate crime training for "police, courts and prosecutors" and also provides legal assistance and support to victims of hate crime (OSEC n.d.).

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 for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 6 August 2013. "Hungary: Murder Convictions Are 'Wake-up Call' over Hate Crimes Against Roma." [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____. 15 August 2012. "Hungary Must Protect Roma Communities from Attack." [Accessed 29 June 2015]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 28 April 2013. "Hungary's Rawest Nerve: Learning to Love the Roma." [Accessed 17 June 2015]

_____. 1 September 2012. "Hungary Nationalists Whip up Anti-Roma Feelings." [Accessed 29 June 2015]

Council of Europe. 16 December 2014. Commissioner for Human Rights. Report By Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Following his Visit to Hungary from 1 to 4 July 2014. [Accessed 4 June 2015]

_____. 30 April 2014. European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). Report to the Hungarian Government on the Visit to Hungary Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment CPT). [Accessed 29 June 2015]

European Union (EU). 2013. Agency for Fundamental Rights. Racism, Discrimination, Intolerance and Extremism: Learning from Experiences in Greece and Hungary. [Accessed 17 June 2015]

_____. N.d. European Commission Against Racisim and Intolerance (ECRI). "Equal Treatment Authority Hungary." [Accessed 17 June 2015]

Freedom House. 2015. "Hungary." Freedom in the World 2015. [Accessed 4 June 2015]

_____. 2014. "Hungary." By Balázs Áron Kovács in Nations in Transit 2014. [Accessed 4 June 2015]

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU). 12 September 2013. "Police Fail to Act Against Racist Violence as Football Fans Target Romani Schoolchildren." [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 26 June 2015]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC). 29 June 2015. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. "History." [Accessed 26 June 2015]

Hungary. 11 July 2012. Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. "Hungary: Activity Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights." [Accessed 30 June 2015]

_____. 2011. The Fundamental Law of Hungary. [Accessed 30 June 2015]

_____. N.d.a. National Protective Service (NPS). "Introduction." [Accessed 29 June 2015]

_____. N.d.b. National Protective Service (NPS). "Integrity Test." [Accessed 29 June 2015]

_____. N.d.c. Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB). "About Us." [Accessed 12 June 2015]

_____. N.d.d. Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. "About the Office." [Accessed 17 June 2015]

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). N.d. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). "Hungary." [Accessed 30 June 2015]

Transparency International (TI) Hungary. 11 December 2013. "Hungary is Corrupt — and It Is Not the Only One." [Accessed 3 June 2015]

United Nations (UN). 3 July 2014. Human Rights Council. Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Mission to Hungary. A/HRC/27/48/Add.4. [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____. N.d. Refworld. "European Union: European Agency for Fundamental Rights." [Accessed 26 June 2015]

United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. [Accessed 26 June 2015]

_____. 27 February 2014. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. [Accessed 23 June 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The following were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response: Transparency International – Hungary.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International – Hungary; Democracy & Freedom Watch; European Roma Rights Center; European Union – Migration and Home Affairs; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; Hungary – Ministry of Interior, National Security Authority; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Open Society Foundations; Project on Ethnic Relations.