President Sólyom doesn't seem to be too concerned, although according to Hungarian sociologists every week at least one woman dies as a result of domestic violence. And that statistic doesn't include old people and children who are abused or even killed. There was something on the books allegedly dealing with the issue, but it was totally ineffectual. Police couldn't act on the spot and weeks might go by before the case ended up in court. By that time, the plaintiff could be dead. Moreover, the police rarely acted. They simply didn't want to get involved in "family squabbles." It was, for example, totally useless to call the police and report threats. The answer was: as long as there is no blood no action can be taken. I remember one specific case when such threats were uttered by a young boy against a young girl. The girl's family reported the situation. The police did nothing. A few days later the girl was dead.
A new piece of legislation passed by an overwhelming majority of the parliament (374 yes votes and only four abstentions) on December 15, 2008. The proposal was drafted by six SZDSZ members, two of whom, Klára Sándor and Bálint Magyar, were especially active. They were the ones who acted as spokesmen and who argued in the media about the necessity of such legislation. They were, of course, very pleased by the practically unanimous vote. Basically, the bill introduced the widely used practice outside of Hungary of a restraining order or protective order. That is, the police, upon reports and obvious signs of physical abuse, are able on the spot to remove the aggressor for at least 72 hours and upon getting a court order the aggressor can be kept away from the victim for at least three months.
The bill went to President Sólyom who refused to sign it and who sent it to the Constitutional Court. According to him the bill is unconstitutional because the Hungarian Constitution [58. § (1)] provides the right to choose one's place of residence. Therefore, the aggressor cannot be prevented from residing wherever he pleases and, I guess, can beat the living daylights out of the woman who shares the dwelling with him. Moreover, continues Sólyom, let's assume that he is either the sole owner or joint owner of the dwelling the couple occupies. In this case the bill is unconstitutional because the Hungarian Constitution states in 13. § (1) that the Republic of Hungary guarantees the right of private property. In his accompanying letter he also mentioned that no new bill was necessary because, after all, in the criminal code there are twenty-six references to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse that are also applicable to domestic violence.
Thus, according to Sólyom, the right to property and the right of freedom of movement are more important than the right of human life. An interesting concept. No wonder that Klára Sándor and Bálint Magyar called Sólyom's argument cynical. Gyurcsány in his blog expressed his surprise at Sólyom's refusal to sign the bill. I must say that by now I'm not surprised by anything Sólyom does. As I said earlier, the problem is that the judges sitting on the Constitutional Court will most likely accept Sólyom's arguments because they bow before the "authority" of the former chief justice.
I like both Klára Sándor and Bálint Magyar too much to remind them that Sólyom's nomination was enthusiastically supported by SZDSZ four years ago. I'll bet by now they are a great deal less enthusiastic. This man with the help of the Constitutional Court is managing to send Hungary down the road of what Ferenc Gyurcsány called "conservative fundamentalism." The consequences of these decisions unfortunately have lasting effects on the country.