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Submission to the CoE Committee of Ministers on whole life sentence

The HHC’s submission to the Committee of Ministers shows that the Hungarian Government has been failing to execute judgments of the European Court of Human Rights that concluded that the rules on imposing whole life imprisonment in Hungary violate the prohibition of inhuman or degrading punishment.

Hungarian law allows for imposing life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (whole life sentence). In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the László Magyar v. Hungary case that by sentencing an applicant to whole life imprisonment, Hungary violated the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. After the judgment, a “mandatory clemency procedure” was introduced for whole lifers. The ECtHR examined the conformity of the new procedure with the Convention in the T.P. and A.T. v. Hungary case, concluding that it was not persuaded that “the applicants’ life sentences can be regarded as reducible for the purposes of Article 3 of the Convention”, and established the violation of the Convention once again. This assessment was confirmed by further decisions. In a recent case, the ECtHR also concluded that the Hungarian rules for life imprisonment with a possibility of parole also violate Article 3 of the Convention.

The László Magyar v. Hungary group of cases will be on the agenda of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Human Rights meeting in September 2022. With a view to that, the HHC submitted a communication to the Committee of Ministers in its capacity of supervising the execution of ECtHR judgments, raising the Committee’s attention to the non-execution of the judgments in the László Magyar v. Hungary group of cases.

According to the HHC’s assessment, the Hungarian Government has not taken any general measures to date to address the rights violations as pointed out by the judgment handed down in the T.P. and A.T. v. Hungary case and subsequent judgments in this group of cases and has not amended the respective legal provisions in a way that would prevent similar rights violations. In our submission to the Committee of Ministers, we pointed out that none of the shortcomings identified by the T.P. and A.T. judgment has been addressed, and the Committee of Ministers’ decision issued regarding the group of cases in 2018 has not been complied with in any way. Mandatory clemency procedure for whole lifers after serving 40 years continues to violate the Convention; along with the rules allowing to set 40 years as the minimum term to be served for parole.

The HHC’s full submission is available here:

Rule 9(2) communication in the László Magyar v. Hungary group of cases


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Hungarian Helsinki Committee