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Submissions to the Council of Europe and the Ministry of Justice on prison overcrowding

In its March 2015 judgment issued in the Varga and Others v. Hungary case, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concluded that the overcrowding of penitentiaries in Hungary constitutes a structural problem, and Hungary should produce a plan to reduce overcrowding within six months. Accordingly, the Hungarian government submitted a related action plan to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, responsible for the supervision of the execution of ECtHR judgments. However, the HHC is convinced that the general measures outlined in the action plan are in themselves insufficient to comply with the requirements included in the pilot judgment, the general measures fail to address systemic deficiencies and most of all, they fail to take into account the various relevant international recommendations.

Therefore, in February 2016, the HHC circulated a background material among the permanent representations of the Council of Europe and the department responsible for the execution of ECtHR judgments, outlining the problems related to the execution of the pilot judgment and formulating recommendations.

In its March 2016 decision the Committee of Ministers, while welcoming certain steps taken by Hungary, also noted with regret for example that no information has been submitted to it by the Hungarian government as regards the putting in place of a preventive remedy in respect of alleged violations of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of prison overcrowding, and invited the Hungarian authorities to provide further information on certain issues by 1 July 2016.

Subsequently, the HHC compiled a detailed set of recommendations in Hungarian, based on the relevant national and foreign literature and the materials of international human rights organizations, proposing eleven mid-term and long-term solutions, which can be easily introduced into the Hungarian legal system without imposing a significant burden on the state budget, to reduce the prison population. The set of recommendations (available only in Hungarian) was submitted to the Ministry of Justice and was published on the HHC’s website on 23 May 2016.

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee