No tangible progress in preventing and sanctioning police ill-treatment
The HHC found that Hungary has failed to achieve any tangible progress with regard to preventing, investigating and sanctioning ill-treatment by the police since last year, and so continues failing to execute the respective judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Court of Human Rights found in multiple cases that Hungary had violated the right to life or the prohibition of torture when failing to carry out adequate and effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by police officers.
The “complex and long-standing nature of the problems raised” in the judgments led the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (in the framework of supervising the execution of European Court of Human Rights judgments) to transfer the respective Gubacsi group of cases to the so-called enhanced procedure in September 2018. In its latest, December 2021 decision, the Committee of Ministers expressed, among others, its deep concern that despite the long-standing nature of the problem, it is not possible to discern an overall strategy envisaged by the authorities to ensure that ill-treatment by law-enforcement agents is eradicated and ill-treatment complaints are effectively investigated; and noted that a fundamentally renewed, swift and resolute approach on behalf of the Hungarian authorities on this matter are therefore urgently required.
The Gubacsi group of cases will be on the Committee of Ministers’ agenda again later this year. Ahead of that, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee submitted a communication to the Committee of Ministers, showing that no tangible progress has been achieved by Hungary with regard to the general measures required for the execution of the judgments in the group of cases since the above 2021 decision by the Committee of Ministers. It is still not possible to discern an overall strategy by the Hungarian authorities to ensure that ill-treatment by law-enforcement agents is eradicated and ill-treatment reports are effectively investigated. The Hungarian authorities have failed to submit an updated action plan by the end of September 2022 deadline provided by the last decision of the Committee of Ministers, and also failed to comply with the guidance provided by the Committee of Ministers in the decision. No meaningful legislative changes have been undertaken, and so none of the systemic deficiencies related to preventing, investigating and sanctioning police ill-treatment have been addressed on a legal level. Quantitative data acquired from the authorities do not show any tangible progress either.
The HHC upholds its view that to prevent, investigate and sanction police ill-treatment adequately and more effectively, Hungary should address outstanding structural deficiencies in the following key areas:
- legal and practical deficiencies in relation to the video recording of police work;
- shortcomings in police training, interrogation techniques, and assessment of police work;
- lack of independent and adequate medical examination of detainees claiming ill-treatment;
- presence of police officers at medical examinations of detainees as a main rule;
- substantive shortcomings in the investigations into ill-treatment;
- low success rate of reporting ill-treatment;
- low success rate of indictments related to ill-treatment;
- judicial leniency towards law enforcement officers with regard to sentencing;
- eligibility for service of convicted law enforcement officers; and
- the lack of effective monitoring of detention by the police and the functioning of procedural safeguards that also prevent torture.
The HHC’s communication is available here:
NGO communication with regard to the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the Gubacsi v. Hungary group of cases (26 October 2022)
An addendum to the above communication, assessing an information note submitted by the Hungarian government after the above communication was submitted by the HHC, is available here.