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European Court of Human Rights: Hungarian Push-backs in breach of prohibition of collective expulsions

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this morning for the first time that push-backs carried out by Hungary under a domestic regulation are in breach of the prohibition of collective expulsions enshrined in Article 4 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Unfortunately, the story of our client is not unique: according to its own official statistics, the Hungarian police carried out nearly 72,000 such push-backs since July 2016 – that is, they committed at least 72,000 unlawful acts.

Our client, originally from Pakistan, irregularly crossed the Hungarian border in August 2016, and as soon as he had the opportunity, he immediately tried to apply for asylum in English. However, under rules introduced a month earlier, the police did not register his asylum application; instead, he was transferred in a police van to the border fence erected on the Hungarian-Serbian border. He was ordered to cross into Serbia through one of the gates built into the fence while police officers recorded the push-back.  Our client, who fully cooperated with the authorities throughout and did not resist in any way the clearly unlawful measure, was then brutally beaten.

As there was no domestic legal remedy available against push-backs, we brought a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. We asked the Court to establish that by automatically removing foreigners to Serbia without any kind of procedure, Hungary is violating the prohibition of collective expulsions. This is precisely what collective expulsion means: a foreigner is removed from a country without any kind of individualized procedure or challengeable decision.

“Khurram Shahzad was the first asylum seeker to decide not to simply just let go of the violations committed against him. We have been fighting together with him for 5 years to pronounce the injustice he has suffered. Justice has been partly delivered with today’s judgment. We expect a judgment soon in his case about the inadequacy of the investigation into his ill-treatment. Today’s decision, however, is not only significant for Khurram, as to this very day, masses of people seeking protection are arbitrarily pushed back in a similar manner to Serbia by the Hungarian authorities. This judgment and our client’s perseverance shall give hope to them too. This ruling and the forthcoming ones in similar cases will help us finally put an end to this shameful and unlawful practice. We continue to work towards this,” said Barbara Pohárnok, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s attorney, legal representative of Khurram Shahzad.

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee