Information on and a brief summary of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee publication Advanced Punishment: Experiences of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee's Police Cell Monitoring Program in 1996 [HUN28975.E]

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 (ibid.).

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 (ibid.).

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 phase (ibid.).

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 rank" (ibid.).

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 and penitentiaries.

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)