Lawyers for the rule of law

In the midst of this refugee crisis, as attention has focused on the crisis on Hungary’s southern borders, we should not forget about another drama, the one that is taking place in the Hungarian judiciary. Hundreds of Hungarian lawyers signed this statement, which I think should circulate more widely than it has up to date. Both the Hungarian and the English versions of the statement can be found on Facebook.

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We, the signatories of this proclamation, are fully aware of the seriousness of the refugee situation and the problems posed by the thousands of people arriving every day to the Hungarian border. The solution of this complex problem implies logistics, humanitarian and immigration issues. Law only plays a small part in it. A miracle that solves the problem is beyond the realm of law.

The legal measures the Hungarian government has just introduced are going to be insufficient. The Hungarian judiciary is not an immigration authority. It is incapable of dealing with this number of cases under such conditions. Impartial, just and equitable decisions are severely threatened by the new legislation.

The new legislation coming to effect on September 15, 2015 constitute a direct breach of treaties signed by Hungary, the directly applicable EU law, the Hungarian constitution and principles of law. These rules will immediately lead to a series of practical problems and situations. The new law itself makes it impossible to solve these problems.

It is unlawful and unjust

  • that juveniles will not receive the same protection in these proceedings as Hungarian or any other juveniles do in the normal procedures
  • that the defendant will not receive the indictment and the judgment in his or her mother tongue
  • that the defendant will be put to “house arrest” in a refugee camp where he or she will be deprived of the rights even arrested people have in the Hungarian legal system. (meeting the attorney, phone calls)
  • that even the identity of the defendant can be uncertain but the court has to act anyway
  • that the documents will be delivered to the defense counsel so the defendant might not receive the documents of his or her own case
  • that in cases where otherwise the court would sit as a panel of three there will be a single judge
  • that people caught in the act of the border crossing will receive a treatment only convicted criminals do and will be deprived of their rights as asylum seekers

We expect these people to “follow our laws” while we have a different set of rules for them.

We therefore demand the Hungarian government to submit proposals to Parliament that are in line with the international and Hungarian law as well as general principles of justice and legislation.

We kindly ask our colleagues working as judges and prosecutors to keep their oath. Upon noticing the anomalies we ask them refer these cases to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice.

Dear Colleagues, these proceedings and the judgments emerging from them are contrary to the very basic principles of our profession, and lack the slightest trace of the dignity attached to it.

We have to defend the defendants no matter what are the charges against them or where they come from. We must use every legal means of the defense to do our duty. We must ignore political implications we must do our job. We demand our colleagues to do that.

Hungary, September 15, 2015

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An interesting exchange between Roper and Thomas More clashing over the disposition of laws within the realm. In the current Magyar judicial environment it would appear ‘new laws’ can sometimes be as bad as no laws. From the play ‘A Man for All Seasons’ by Robert Bolt…for me one of the greatest plays in the history of theater. William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law! Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that! Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake! It is apparent that there are those in the Magyar judiciary who… Read more »

Brilliant, what a dreadful shame that it won’t make the slightest difference to the Governments diabolical and inhuman policy. I wish there was evidence of the Hungarian Catholic Church taking similar action. Their silence and inactivity is a denial of Christian values and beliefs.