Hungary chief justice asks high court to annul new law empowering prosecutors

[JURIST] The Chief Justice of Hungary, Andras Baka, has petitioned [text, DOC, in Hungarian] the Hungarian Supreme Court [official website, in Hungarian] to review a recently enacted law that he claims gives prosecutors too much power and violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and the Hungarian Constitution [text, PDF, in Hungarian]. The law, enacted in July, enables prosecutors to choose their venue, increases the detainment period from 72 to 120 hours in extreme circumstances and prevents prisoners from contacting their lawyers for 48 hours. Baka explained that the provisions put the defendant at a severe disadvantage, endangering the concept of equality in the law: "the principle of equality of arms 'requires that protection is comparable with the weight of the accusations have powers.'" It is unknown if the Supreme Court will take Baka's suggestions.

In April, the National Assembly of Hungary [official website, in Hungarian] approved [statement, in Hungarian] a new constitution [JURIST report] by a margin of 262-44 and one abstention. The constitution introduces several changes, including a debt ceiling where the country's debt cannot exceed 50 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP); a reform of the Fiscal Council, giving the group the right to veto the budget and dissolve parliament for failure to pass an annual budget by the end of March; a definition of marriage as a union between man and woman; and a statement that the life of a fetus begins at and should be protected from conception. The constitution also includes a new preamble [text, in Hungarian] that condemns the communist and socialist climate in Hungary that existed from 1944 to 1990 and solidifies democratization that began 20 years ago. Other laws passed by the FIDESZ-led parliament have garnered controversy. In February, the government agreed to change its controversial media law following negotiations between Hungarian and EU representatives [JURIST reports]. The law created the National Media Communications Authority (NMHH) [official website, in Hungarian], which controls private television and radio broadcasters, newspapers and online news sites. Under the law, the government could fine broadcasters more than 700,000 euros and newspapers and news websites roughly 90,000 euros if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral by the NMHH, made up of members loyal to FIDESZ. The law was approved in December 2010 and went into effect in January amid protests from members of the media, other European governments as well as Amnesty International, which urged Hungary to amend the law [JURIST report] because it curtails freedom of expression.

 

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