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A Constitutional Crisis in the Hungarian Judiciary

New briefing paper by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty International Hungary on the constitutional crisis in the Hungarian judiciary.

The paper outlines key developments since January 2018, both regarding the ordinary court system and the prospect of the new administrative courts. We also make recommendations to resolve the crisis.

Available here: A Constitutional Crisis in the Hungarian Judiciary 

“The Hungarian judiciary is facing a kind of ‘constitutional crisis’ since May 2018” while “checks and balances, which are crucial to ensuring judicial independence, have been further weakened within the ordinary court system”. These are findings by the European Association of Judges and the European Commission, both of which are following with concern the deterioration of the independence of Hungarian courts.

Beyond growing attempts by Hungarian authorities to exert political control over independent institutions, including courts, the independence of the judiciary in Hungary is severely threatened by a prolonged conflict between key judicial actors that is jeopardizing the effective oversight of court administration. The person responsible for court administration, the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO) is not cooperating with the judicial oversight body, resulting in a “constitutional crisis”. This oversight body, the National Judicial Council, found that the NJO President had breached the law multiple times regarding recruitment and promotion of judges, hence it requested the Parliament to dismiss the NJO President. However, on 11 June 2019, the Parliament’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP majority voted to keep her in office.

At the same time, the Government is planning to set up a heavily government-controlled administrative court system that will be separate from the ordinary courts. The new court system will have jurisdiction over taxation, public procurement and other economic matters, election, freedom of assembly, asylum and certain other human rights issues, as well as all kinds of decisions taken by public administrative authorities. Several domestic and international actors have expressed concerns over these changes in recent months, such as the European Commission, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has reported on earlier attacks against judicial independence in Hungary, including the plan to set up special administrative courts. This briefing paper continues this line of analyses and outlines key developments of the last 18 months in the Hungarian judiciary, both regarding the ordinary court system (Part 1) and the prospect of new administrative courts (Part 2). We also make recommendations for solving the crisis (Part 3).

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee