IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Autor)
Advanced Punishment–Detained by
the Police, 1996 was published in Hungarian by the Hungarian
Helsinki Committee (HHC) and the Constitutional and Legislative
Policy Institute in December 1997 (MTI 22 Dec. 1997). A lengthy
English summary of this book entitled Experiences of the
Hungarian Helsinki Committee's Police Cell Monitoring Programme in
1996 was sent to the IRB by the HHC and is available in IRB
Regional Documentation Centres.
In 1996 the HHC initiated a programme to
monitor and report on the treatment of alleged criminals by police
during arrest, interrogation and detention in police holding cells.
The programme also undertook to monitor conditions of detention
facilities. The monitoring teams conducting the programme were
headed by attorneys who were accompanied by doctors, sociologists
and social workers (HHC 1997). The programme was divided into two
phases, the first lasting from 14 February 1996 to 30 June 1996 and
the second from 15 September 1996 to 15 December 1996.
One-third of detainees questioned by the
monitoring teams stated that they had been assaulted by police
officers at least once so far in their lives (ibid.). Some
detainees were allegedly mistreated while being escorted to
interrogation rooms, but it is more common that suspects are
mistreated when they are actually caught in the act of committing a
crime or after they have been taken into a police facility
The law imposes a much more severe
punishment on those officers who use physical force in order to
obtain a confession than on those who strike out of fury or use
excessive force. The latter – ill treatment during official
procedure – is considered a misdemeanour, punishable with up
to 2 years of imprisonment, while the aforementioned is an offence,
punishable with up 5 years of imprisonment. In spite of this,
violence used to obtain confession is an everyday practice
In the 92 cases of alleged police ill
treatment or forced interrogation reported to the monitoring teams,
only 12 individuals filed reports or complaints (ibid.). HHC
explains this by noting that filing a report is often difficult as
in many small communities and villages the alleged abuser is the
only person authorized to take a complaint report. In Budapest it
often takes days before a "competent" police leader is found to
take the report. "When the police leader is finally found, instead
of notifying the public prosecutor he often conducts his own
deliberation, and it often happens that the leader decides to treat
the complaint as a matter belonging under his own competence, or
attempts to dissuade the person from filing a report." The detained
individual can turn directly to the Public Prosecutor's office for
assistance. Few detainees, however, realize that this is an option.
Detainees can also raise allegations in the court that orders
pre-trial detention, but the HHC reports that "judges do not
welcome this during the routine procedure, in fact it is often not
even recorded in the minutes. Many people claimed that the judge
rejected their complaint with the reasoning that it 'did not
pertain to the procedure at hand'" (ibid.).
The HHC report further states that those
individuals who do file reports often face reprisals as they are
usually kept in detention wards with the police officers that
allegedly mistreated them. Even if the alleged victim is not in the
same ward as the accused police officer, they are often in contact
with his colleagues–the report notes that a great deal of
solidarity exists among police officers (ibid.).
According to the HHC's report the strongest
force that keeps detainees from filing complaints against police
officers is the fact that detainees do not have any faith in the
legal remedies available to them (ibid.).
For example, our monitors met an
ill-treated man … who had suffered obvious visible injuries.
They offered to help him in filing a report, but the man refused
their assistance saying that he did not believe that the police
officers would be held accountable, and he was more afraid of
retaliation due to the report. Statistics prove him right: only a
tenth of reports against abusive police office reach the courts,
while the rest is aborted in the investigation stage in the
investigating office of the public prosecutor or in the indictment
The police themselves rarely initiate
charges of police abuse (ibid.). "In 1995, out of 370 reports on
account of forced interrogation only 33 reports were filed by the
police, in the case of ill-treatment during official procedure this
ratio was 809 to 98, for unlawful detention 106 to 5. Police
officers sufficiently suspected or even convicted of these crimes
were allowed to remain in the police corps, keep their post and
The HHC report also details instances of
psychological pressure and persuasion, these practices are
especially used while attempting to obtain confessions (ibid.).
Please see the HHC summary available at IRB Regional Documentation
Centres for further detailed information on alleged police abuse,
the rights of detainees and conditions in Hungarian detention cells
In 1997 the Hungarian Helsinki Committee
(HHC) published two summary reports in English which provide
details on numerous cases of alleged police ill treatment during
arrest, investigation and in police detention wards. These reports
are entitled Cases of Police Brutality Handled by the Human
Rights Legal Counselling Office of the Hungarian Helsinki
Committee and Reports on Police Arbitrariness in the Press
in 1997. Both of these summary reports are available at IRB
Regional Documentation Centres.
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.
Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) and
the Constitutional and Legislation Policy Institute (CLPI). 1997.
Advanced Punishment: Experiences of the Hungarian Helsinki
Committee's Police Cell Monitoring Program in 1996. Budapest:
HHC and the CLPI.
MTI [Budapest, in English]. 22 December
1997. "Hungary: Watchdog Group Criticizes Detention Center
Conditions." (FBIS-EEU-97-356 23 Dec. 1997/WNC)