Judicial independence is being systematically undermined in Hungary. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty International Hungary recommend specific steps that would remedy the long-standing systemic deficiencies of the system, thus restoring and safeguarding judicial independence.
The series of attacks against judicial independence that began in 2012 with the mandatory retirement of senior judges are aimed at extending political influence over the judiciary. After the plans to set up a separate administrative court system under close control of the Justice Minister were recently cancelled, some might have thought that this process has come to a halt. However, Bill T/8016 submitted to Parliament on 12 November 2019 would, if adopted, enable the Government to circumvent the ordinary court system in politically sensitive cases. Furthermore, it does not contain any remedies to the structural deficiencies that created the constitutional crisis within the system of judicial administration between the President of the National Judicial Office (NJO) and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
>>> Read our analysis on the Bill here: Proposed new law threatens judicial independence in Hungary – again
The present situation calls for urgent steps to both prevent the immediate threat posed by the Bill and to remedy the long-standing systemic deficiencies of the system, thus restoring and safeguarding judicial independence.
Hence, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) and Amnesty International Hungary (AI Hungary) recommend that
- Bill T/8016 should not be adopted in its current form.
- In order to address the long-standing structural problems, the laws on the judiciary should be amended to ensure compliance with international standards and specific recommendations on the situation of the Hungarian judiciary by international bodies.
- Any further legal reform concerning the judiciary should be preceded by an extensive and meaningful public consultation with the legal profession, academia, civil society and the general public.
HHC and AI Hungary formulated concrete recommendations aimed at restoring judicial independence in Hungary. The recommendations cover the following areas:
- Recommendations on the structure of court administration:
- reducing the extensive powers of the NJO President,
- reinforcing the NJC structurally,
- restoring and ensuring the NJC’s proper and effective functioning to allow for effective supervision over the NJO President,
- and protecting the integrity of the NJC’s judge members.
- Recommendations on judicial leadership appointments, aimed at challenging the NJO President’s practices in declaring application procedures for judicial leadership positions unsuccessful without any substantive reason, that was found by the NJC unlawful, and to strengthen the collective approach in the appointment process
- Recommendation to amend the Fundamental Law and remove from it the reference to administrative courts
- Recommendations on an enabling environment for judges
>>> Read our full recommendations here: Recommendations aimed at restoring the independence of the judiciary in Hungary