On January 25 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on a case that the Hungarian Helsinki Committee had brought to it in April 2015 on behalf of a Nigerian man seeking political asylum because of his homosexuality. In Nigeria’s 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, the maximum penalty for homosexuality is death by stoning. The Hungarian authorities, on the basis of psychological tests, turned down his request. With the help of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, he appealed to the Szeged Administrative and Labor Court, where one of the judges decided to ask the opinion of the ECJ. He apparently had doubts about Hungarian law as it applied in cases like the Nigerian asylum seeker. As it turned out, not without reason.
Now, almost two years later, the court in Luxembourg ruled that “an asylum seeker may not be subjected to a psychological test in order to determine his sexual orientation” because “the performance of such a test amounts to a disproportionate interference in the private life of the asylum seeker.” This ruling is a great victory for the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which was an early opponent of psychological testing. In fact, the organization received a 120 million-forint grant from EU sources to put together a training manual titled Credibility Assessment in Asylum Procedures, which was published in 2013. It is a 140-page, extremely thorough guide for those who have to decide the fate of refugees or migrants. The staff of the Helsinki Committee argued that these psychological tests, especially the ones used by the Hungarian authorities, are of no help; in fact, they can easily lead to unfair assessments of individual cases. If well-trained professionals do the questioning, the veracity of the asylum seeker can be ascertained in most cases without any psychological testing, the Helsinki Committee contended. Although there were earlier ECJ rulings on similar cases, this decision is especially significant because it is applicable in all 28 member states of the European Union. Moreover, the Hungarian court cannot appeal, which makes the Nigerian refugee’s chances for asylum much stronger.
The Hungarian authorities’ decision was based on a psychologist’s report that included an exploratory examination, an examination of the applicant’s personality, and the results of three personality tests: Draw-a-Person-in-the-Rain, Rorschach, and Szondi. The Rorschach test was developed almost 100 years ago in the 1920s; Lipót Szondi’s test is not much more recent. It first appeared in 1935. According to current opinion, “when interpreted as a projective test, results [of the Rorschach test] are poorly verifiable.” There is some evidence that it is still good for detecting such conditions as schizophrenia and psychotic and/or personality disorders, but I found nothing that said the test is good at proving or disproving homosexuality. When it comes to the Szondi test, it is not widely used in modern clinical psychology “because its psychometric properties are weak.” Both the Rorschach and the Szondi tests are available online. The third test is positively amusing. The subject is asked to draw a person in the rain, on the basis of which far-fetched conclusions are drawn. These conclusions are so bizarre that I urge everybody to pay a visit to the site, which explains the significance of every aspect of this drawing, starting with the position of the person on the paper to the handle of the umbrella.
Naturally, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee is delighted with the ruling, which “is the result of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s decade-long struggle to put an end to the humiliating and stigmatizing psychological testing of asylum-seekers’ sexual-emotional orientation in asylum procedures.” For Viktor Orbán, on the other hand, this is yet another blow from an NGO that he perceives as part of a centrally ordered and organized attack on his political system with a view to his removal from office. In opposition circles most people express their disbelief that Viktor Orbán can seriously think that George Soros, like a puppeteer, pulls all the strings that result in his repeated humiliation. I might be mistaken, but I think that Orbán’s repeated attacks on George Soros and his activities through the NGOs is more than a campaign stratagem. I suspect it is a reaction to what he perceives as a genuine threat to his power.
This latest defeat was answered by a plethora of belligerent articles and editorials in the government media. In Magyar Idők two relevant articles and one editorial appeared on the day following the release of the ECJ’s verdict. All three emphasize that the court opted to share “the point of view of the Soros-financed Helsinki Committee.” Calling the lawyers working for these civil rights organizations “human rights fundamentalists,” one of the articles accuses them of “removing the administrative barriers which hamper the admission of migrants to the European Union.” An article titled “According to the EU the immigrants are always right” is mostly concerned about the exclusion of psychologists. It charges that “in the future lay people will decide whether those who claim to be homosexuals are really ‘different’ or not.” Misinterpreting the Helsinki Committee’s handbook, the author accuses the organization and the European Court of Justice, which agrees with it, of always believing the words of the asylum seekers, even if their stories are confused and contain contradictory statements. These opinions reflect the judgment of the Hungarian ministry of justice. Undersecretary Pál Völner considers the ECJ verdict unprofessional because the judges failed to consult “the experts on the subject,” the psychologists. They are the ones who can pass judgment on the tests the Hungarian psychologists have been administering to asylum seekers.
Magyar Idők’s editorial titled “An absurd verdict” is frightening. According to the unsigned opinion piece, as a result of this new development the “Stop Soros action plan is not only justified and urgently needed but it is presumably insufficient against the systematic undermining of traditional European societies.” It continues: “to defend against the activities of the Soros organizations and to counter migration pressure further changes in the law will presumably be necessary.” Does this mean that attacks against the “Soros network” will intensify? Unfortunately, the government media’s predictions more often than not turn out to be an announcement of government policy. There is therefore a good likelihood that the answer to the Helsinki Committee’s success in Luxembourg will be another round of attacks on them and the other civil rights groups.