March 30, 2020 – Following the decision by the Hungarian parliament to pass a new law that will allow the government to rule by decree without meaningful oversight, and with no clear end date or periodic reviews under the state of emergency, David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary Director, said:
“This bill creates an indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency and give Viktor Orbán and his government carte blanche to restrict human rights. This is not the way to address the very real crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We need strong safeguards to ensure that any measures to restrict human rights adopted under the state of emergency are strictly necessary and proportional in order to protect public health. This new law bestows unlimited powers to the government to rule by decree beyond the pandemic.”
“During his years as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalized groups and attempting to muzzle Hungary’s critical voices. Allowing his government to rule by decree is likely to speed this rollback.”
Plans for the new law have received international criticism from the Council of Europe, European Parliament, International Press Institute, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The new law has two pillars of provisions. First, it gives a parliamentary mandate for the government to rule by decree without a sunset clause or any other provision that would guarantee that the parliament can exercise its role of effective oversight.
Secondly, the law creates two new crimes that are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. Anyone who publicizes false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public – or that “alarm or agitate” that public – could be punished by up to five years in prison.
Anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.
To learn more about COVID-19 and human rights, visit: https://www.amnestyusa.org/distant-but-together-responding-to-covid-19/
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Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.