Hellenic League for Human Rights supports the action launched by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders*, consisting of an open letter sent to all members of the Hungarian Parliament ahead of the vote on the draft law “on the Transparency of Organisations Funded from Abroad” (T/14967) set to take place on Tuesday June 13, 2017.
The letter** expresses concerns regarding the aformentioned bill, which in its current form appears to be incompatible with international and European human rights standards, and calls on members of Parliament to reject it and contribute to ensuring an enabling environment for civil society in Hungary. Indeed, the current text would force Hungarian NGOs receiving more than 7.200.000 HUF (approx. € 24,000) per year from abroad to re-register as “civic organisations receiving foreign funding” and to add this label on all their publications and websites. The bill also establishes sanctions in case of failure by NGOs to comply with the new requirements, which could go up to their dissolution. If adopted, the draft law would seriously threaten civil society organisations in Hungary, undermine their independence and obstruct their work. It is reminiscent of the Russian law on ‘foreign agents’ and would be unprecedented in an EU member state.
The bill*** has been condemned by several international organisations, including the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Council of Europe Venice Commission and the European Parliament, which recently urged the Hungarian government to withdraw the proposed act, which would risk breaching the EU’s founding principles as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), in a resolution adopted on 17 May.
Although some amendments have been introduced which do address some of the concerns raised by the Venice Commission in its 2 June opinion, these constitute minor changes that do not affect the substance of the law, which in its current form remains inconsistent with Hungary’s obligations under international and European law.
* For more information on the Observatory, a joint FIDH-OMCT program: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues /human-rights-defenders/.
** Read the letter here
*** For a more detailed analysis of the content of the bill, see press release of the Observatory, April 14, 2017, available at: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues /human-rights-defenders/hungar y-new-bill-hampers-ngos-access -to-funding-and-seriously