United Nations independent expert Michel Forst has called on the Government of Hungary to refrain from stigmatising and intimidating human rights defenders, and ensure that they can conduct their work in an enabling legal and administrative environment.
“Human rights defenders in Hungary are increasingly working in a rather polarised and politicised environment,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of the first visit* to the country, while criticising attempts to de-legitimize defenders and undermine their peaceful and legitimate activities through criminal defamation and excessive administrative and financial pressure, report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says.
Mr. Forst commended Hungary for setting the foundations of democracy after a long period of authoritarianism, but he cautioned that over a thousand of laws in the last five years have debilitated “a well-functioning democracy and gradually removed important checks on the executive branch.”
“The drastic constitutional changes in Hungary have resulted in the weakened constitutional court and the centralization and tightening of government’s control over the judiciary, the media, religious organizations and other spheres of public life, directly or indirectly affecting human rights,” he stressed.
The UN expert pointed out that “defenders are exposed to serious challenges which, in some instances, appear to amount to violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as of their legitimate right to promote and defend human rights.” During his visit, Mr. Forst heard specific testimonies that defenders who criticise the Government or raise human rights concerns are quickly intimidated and portrayed as ‘political’ or ‘foreign agents’.
“In the context of the refugee crisis and the excessively manipulated fear of the ‘other’ in society, defenders face public criticism by government officials, stigmatisation in the media, unwarranted inspections and reduction of state funding,” the Special Rapporteur noted.
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