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Advocating the Abolishment of Actual Life Sentence (2008-2009)

Lifelong imprisonment without the possibility of parole (actual life sentence) was introduced into Hungarian criminal law in 1998. Hungary and the UK are the only EU Member States whose legal system makes it possible to impose a so-called “actual life sentence” on perpetrators of serious crimes.

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Váltás magyarra

Both international and Hungarian human rights organizations have raised serious concerns about the concept, according to which such prisoners, once they are sentenced, are considered to be a permanent threat to the community and are deprived of any hope of being granted conditional release. According to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) “no one can reasonably argue that all lifers will always remain dangerous to society. Secondly, the detention of persons who have no hope of release poses severe management problems in terms of creating incentives to co-operate and address disruptive behaviour, the delivery of personal development programmes, the organisation of sentence plans and security”.

Subsequently, the HHC position is that the law should make conditional release available to all sentenced prisoners, including life-sentenced prisoners. In this regard, the HHC aims to raise the awareness of law-makers, policy-makers, and the general public about the human rights and security concerns related to actual life sentence, and lobbies for its abolishment both at the international and domestic level.

Our most important activites in this field are:

  • holding, in February 2009, a round-table meeting for criminologists, criminal, penitentiary, constitutional and human rights experts, legislators and representatives of the most important stakeholders, with the aim of discussing the results of the visits to prisons where actual lifers are held;
  • filing in early 2009 of a constitutional complaint with the Hungarian Constitutional Court, in the hope of annulling the unconstitutional provision.


Supported by: Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern EuropeNational Civil Fund



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Hungarian Helsinki Committee