On paper that seems to be the case. The Hungarian Guard lost again on appeal. It was last December that the presiding judge in a lower court found the Hungarian Guard guilty of violating the rights of an ethnic group. The lawyer representing the Guard appealed. Today the Hungarian Guard both as a "cultural association" and as a "movement" was found guilty as charged. Anyone interested in the distinction between "association" and "movement" cooked up by the defense lawyer should read my blog "The Hungarian Guard: End game?" (December 17, 2008).
Fidesz issued a terse response that can be found on the party's web site: "Fidesz is a party of law and order. Fidesz, being a political organization, never expressed any opinion on court cases in the past and is not planning to do so in the future." MSZP was not so shy. István Nyakó, spokesman of the party, expressed his hope that "from today on it is clear to everyone that the Hungarian Guard is not only inhumane and unacceptable but also professes an illegal ideology and practice." He added that this is just the beginning, but at least the court of appeal made clear where the line is between free speech and fascist ideology. He expressed his hope that from here on any hidden or open cooperation with extreme groups will not be tolerated. The different Roma organizations were delighted, and one of their leaders said "an era came to a close" with this court decision.
I wouldn't be so optimistic. The Hungarian Guard has no intention of obeying the law, it seems. As soon as the news of the court decision reached some of the leaders of the Guard, they immediately swung into action. Tonight, for example, the Guard is recruiting in the city of Gyöngyös (Heves County). Gábor Vona gave a press conference at which he outlined Jobbik's determination to continue the fight. They will turn to the Supreme Court asking it to review the case. If they refuse to do so, Jobbik is going straight to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Good luck there! Vona, perhaps himself not believing in Jobbik's success at the Hungarian Supreme Court or the court in Strasbourg, warned that "this injunction will have grave societal consequences because it goes against the sense of justice of the Hungarian people." Moreover, he added, to forbid the activities of the "association" will not achieve its expected result. Because, after all, this verdict doesn't forbid the wearing of identical outfits or appearing even in large numbers in towns and villages. He added that Jobbik for the time being is not considering establishing a new organization under a different name. Vona, by the way, was in the courtroom and even before the session began he was actively promoting the Hungarian Guard. See the attached picture taken in front of the courthouse. Members of the Hungarian Guard couldn't enter the building but one older fellow got in anyway. He arrived in civilian clothes but in a bag he carried his uniform into which he quickly changed. The papers didn't elaborate what happened to him. Was he removed or not? My feeling is that he wasn't; otherwise the journalists, always eager to report something sensational, would have said something about it.
Quite independently of Jobbik's future strategy I foresee a huge legal debate ahead of us. Legal experts will argue endlessly about what Hungarian law enforcement will or will not be able to do if and when the Hungarian Guard marches out again in uniform and in military formation. I already heard one opinion on József Orosz's radio program, Kontra. The constitutional expert, István Lövétei, pretty well said that in Hungarian jurisprudence such a verdict means nothing because law enforcement simply doesn't have the "instruments" to implement it. There is absolutely nothing in the law governing freedom of assembly that would forbid the wearing of identical clothes, boots, striped kerchiefs. And there are no exclusionary provisions that would prevent assembly by an illegal group. In brief, the verdict is very nice but it has no teeth. In England, for example–he continued–the situation would be different. There a court decision automatically allows law enforcement to suppress an organization found illegal by the court. Not so in Hungary.
I'm no lawyer, but I know that Lövétei's interpretations are often very conservative, and I'm almost certain that tomorrow and the day after tomorrow there will be other jurists who will not share his opinion. Even József Orosz (also a liberal arts type like myself) inquired how the law can treat a "movement" and its outward signs separately. For instance, the boys belonging to the Boy Scout movement wear Boy Scout uniforms. The uniform is a distinguishing sign of the movement. Lövétei was not impressed.
When Tibor Draskovics, the minister of justice and law enforcement, was asked about his reaction to the verdict he didn't address any of the practical problems concerning any future illegal activities (which according to Lövétei wouldn't even be illegal). He was elated. The message for him was clear– no one has the right to compete with the state monopoly on law enforcement. In addition, in a democratic country no one has the right to threaten others. "The Hungarian state proved that it is able and ready to defend itself against every kind of unconstitutional attempt." Nice words but the question is not only whether Hungary has a legal system that can issue an injunction against the Hungarian Guard but whether the police are strong enough to enforce that verdict. And I'm not at all sure of that. I hope I'm wrong.