A Constitutional Crisis in the Hungarian Judiciary
“The Hungarian judiciary is facing a kind of ‘constitutional crisis’ since May 2018 while “checks and balances, which are crucial to ensuring judicial independence, have been further weakened within the ordinary court system”. These are findings by the European Association of Judges and the European Commission, both of which are following with concern the deterioration of the independence of Hungarian courts.
Beyond growing attempts by Hungarian authorities to exert political control over independent institutions, including courts, the independence of the judiciary in Hungary is severely threatened by a prolonged conflict between key judicial actors that is jeopardizing the effective oversight of court administration. The person responsible for court administration, the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO) is not cooperating with the judicial oversight body, resulting in a “constitutional crisis”. This oversight body, the National Judicial Council, found that the NJO President had breached the law multiple times regarding recruitment and promotion of judges, hence it requested the Parliament to dismiss the NJO President. However, on 11 June 2019, the Parliament’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority voted to keep her in office.
At the same time, the Government is planning to set up a heavily government-controlled administrative court system that will be separate from the ordinary courts. The new court system will have jurisdiction over taxation, public procurement and other economic matters, election, freedom of assembly, asylum and certain other human rights issues, as well as all kinds of decisions taken by public administrative authorities. Several domestic and international actors have expressed concerns over these changes in recent months, such as the European Commission, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges.
Despite this week’s mass protests in Budapest, the Hungarian President has signed what has become known as ‘Slave Law’ and another piece of legislation establishing a new administrative court that would undermine the independent judiciary, rendering them under the influence of the Minister of Justice.
The police must rein in unnecessary and excessive force, including the use of tear gas, against peaceful protesters, Amnesty International said today ahead of further demonstrations planned tonight in Budapest.
Today the Hungarian Parliament adopted a new law that renders the administrative court system under the heavy influence of the Minister of Justice. Previously the administrative courts were organically independent institutions but from now on the Minister will have dominant influence over who might become a judge or the president of the court.
From 1 December David Vig will join Amnesty International Hungary as the section's new director.