15 magyar civil szervezet ajánlása az EBESZ-nek a hazai civil szféra védelmében.
Statement by Hungarian NGOs
OSCE HDIM 2017
Working session 2: Fundamental freedoms I.
Freedom of peaceful assembly and association – National
human rights institutions and the role of civil society in the
protection of human rights
Tuesday, 12 September 2017
The undersigned civil
society organisations from Hungary wish to draw the attention of the
Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to the
alarmingly shrinking civic space for civil society and the growing
obstacles faced by human rights defenders in Hungary.
The Law on the Transparency of Organisations Receiving Foreign
Funds (Anti-NGO Law) was adopted on 13 June 2017 by the governing
majority of the Hungarian Parliament, despite repeated domestic and international objections.
The law is part of a series of measures that began
in 2013 designed to discredit and silence civil society
organisations that are trying to hold the government to account to
its obligations concerning anti-corruption, environmental protection,
fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law. Other measures
include unfounded allegations by members of the Hungarian government,
misleading reporting from government-friendly media, the terms of the
‘Let’s Stop Brussels’ so-called consultation, as well as a
series of unjustified investigations in 2014 against NGOs that had
received funds from the EEA Grants NGO Programme.
Under the Anti-NGO Law, any civil society organisation that
receives over cca. USD 28,000 per year from foreign sources should
register as an “organisation receiving foreign funds” in a state
register, and should display this stigmatising label on all of its
publications. Failure to comply with the law could lead to a judicial
procedure that could impose fines or even result in the court
dissolving the organisation.
The ability to seek, receive and use funding is inherent to the
right to freedom of association and essential to the existence and
effective, independent operations of any organisation. Labelling NGOs
or mandating separate registration for NGOs that receive foreign
funding will likely single out and therefore stigmatize NGOs that
receive such funding and has been seen as hampering their work,
including ability to access and raise resources also domestically.
Grave concerns by international actors
Many international bodies and human right institutions have
expressed grave concerns about the draft of the Anti-NGO Law.
After a country visit to Hungary in January 2016, the UN Special
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst
expressed concern in March 2017 about the continued stigmatization of
human rights defenders in Hungary and about the chilling effect of
the inflammatory language used by senior government officials on the
public perception of the
value of civil society. The Council of Europe President of the
Conference of INGOs and the
President of the Expert Council on NGO Law issued a statement on
7 March 2017 to urge politicians to refrain from using accusatory and
labelling rhetoric and to respect some key principles to ensure that
fundamental rights are not infringed.
EU Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council
of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed their
concern about the compatibility of the draft law with European
fundamental rights standards. The Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe requested the Hungarian government to suspend the
national parliamentary debate on the draft law pending the opinion
Venice Commission. The Government of Hungary was requested to
withdraw the draft law, outright, by European
Parliament Resolution of 17 May 2017 on the situation in Hungary.
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice
Commission) issued a final opinion on the draft Law on 16
June. The Venice Commission stressed that the legitimate aim of
ensuring transparency of civil society organisations in order to
prevent undue foreign political influence, the fight against money
laundering and the financing of terrorism cannot be used as a pretext
to control NGOs or to restrict their ability to carry out their
legitimate work. The Venice Commission expressed concerns that the
Law will cause a disproportionate and unnecessary interference with
the freedoms of association and expression, the right to privacy, and
the prohibition of discrimination.
In July 2017, the European
Commission launched an infringement procedure on account of
the law on foreign-funded NGOs. The Commission found several
violations of EU law, namely that the Law interferes unduly with
fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights
of the European Union, in particular the right to freedom of
association. The Commission concluded that the new law could prevent
NGOs from raising funds and would restrict their ability to carry out
their work. The new registration, reporting and publicity
requirements foreseen by the law are discriminatory and create an
administrative and reputational burden for these organisations. These
measures may have a dissuasive effect on the funding from abroad and
make it difficult for the concerned NGOs to receive it.
The Anti-NGO Law is unnecessary, stigmatising and harmful
To date, 233 Hungarian NGOs
have publicly condemned the Anti-NGO Law as we believe it is
unnecessary, stigmatising and harmful. Unnecessary, because Hungarian
civil society organisations are already transparent in their
operations, provide accurate information about their donors and
finances in annual reports and carry out their activities before the
public. Stigmatising, because the law implies that organisations
which work for the benefit of Hungarian society by receiving
international grants for their work pose a threat to the country.
Harmful, because it undermines mutual trust in society and questions
the right to freedom of expression.
There is a reason to fear that the newly adopted law will not be
the endpoint of the several years long governmental campaign to
denounce Hungarian civil society organisations. On the contrary, this
is a new step in a long process that aims at fully discrediting civil
society organisations. However, there can be no real democracy and
civil liberties without independent and critical thinking and a
strong civil society.
The undersigned Hungarian NGOs reaffirm that the Law on the
Transparency of Organisations Receiving Foreign Funds is unnecessary
in a democratic society and should be repealed.
After the Anti-NGO Law came into force at the end of June 2017, 23
civil society organisations filed a joint complaint to the
Constitutional Court of Hungary as we allege the law breaches
constitutionally protected rights to a good reputation, privacy,
freedom of expression and freedom of association.
We call on the OSCE and OSCE Participating States to:
Continue monitoring the situation of human rights defenders
in Hungary and intensify efforts to empower and support them,
including through political, legal and financial assistance.
Urge the Government of Hungary to fully implement the OSCE
Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Most
notably, the government should be urged to refrain from using
accusatory and labelling rhetoric against human rights defenders and
independent civil society organisations; instead, it should be
encouraged to take proactive steps to counter discrediting of human
rights defenders by political leaders and in the media.
Engage with the Government of Hungary to encourage
meaningful dialogue between the Government and civil society, in
order to ensure that institution-building, development and other
programmes are human rights compliant.
Explore and strengthen non-governmental, alternative
sources and means of funding for independent civil society, with a
view to ensuring free and non-politicized access to funding for all
civil society organizations.
Monitor the impact of legislation as well as other measures
and related actions (including communication) by state actors
targeting the funding and operations of civil society organisations
Signed by the following Hungarian NGOs:
Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Amnesty International Hungary
Ökotárs / Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation
Civil Kollégium Alapítvány / Civil College Foundation
Eötvös Károly Policy Institute
Védegylet / Protect the Future
Közélet Iskolája / School of Public Life
Magyarországi Európa Társaság / Hungarian Europe
Hungarian Women’s Lobby
Humán Platform Egyesület / Human Platform Association
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ)
Levegő Munkacsoport / Clean Air Action Group