COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE
19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture
second periodic report of Hungary (CAT/C/17/Add.8) was considered
by the Committee at its 141st, 142nd and 145th meetings, on 21 and
23 April 1993 (see CAT/C/SR.141, 142 and 145).
report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who
declared that during the reporting period Hungary had undergone a
profound and fundamental change. The communist one-party system with
its socio-political order had been replaced by a pluralist society,
a functioning democracy and the rule of law. Respect for human rights
and fundamental freedoms had been a major driving force of that transition.
The change of regime and modifications to the national legislation,
especially to the constitution and penal laws that accompanied it,
had brought the Hungarian system of law virtually into line with the
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment. Particular importance was attached to the establishment
of the Constitutional Court which had ruled, inter alia, in
its decision No. 23/1990, that capital punishment was contrary to
the constitutional provisions prohibiting limitations on the very
substance of the right to life and human dignity (articles 8.2 and
54.1 of the Constitution).
the period under review Hungary had withdrawn its reservations concerning
articles 20 and 30, paragraph 1, of the Convention and it had recognized
by declaration the competence of the Committee under articles 21 and
22 of the Convention. In addition. Hungary was in favour of the elaboration
of the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture by a working
group of the Commission on Human Rights.
members of the Committee thanked the Government of Hungary for its
timely report, which provided clear and complete answers to the many
questions put by the Committee during the consideration of the initial
report. They noted that the crime of torture could be punished in
accordance with articles 226 to 228 of the Criminal Code, although
they found the maximum penalties laid down by those articles extremely
light, and asked for further details. Some members of the Committee
took note of decision No. 23/1990 of the Constitutional Court whereby
capital punishment was declared unconstitutional, and asked what Hungarian
public opinion thought of the matter. They also asked whether Law-Decree
No. 3 of 1988, whereby the Convention against Torture had been incorporated
into domestic law, had already been invoked in decisions by the courts,
whether any appeals had been lodged with the Procurator, and if so
what conclusions had been reached.
members of the Committee also inquired whether there had been any
cases of torture during the period under review, how many complaints
had been filed, whether there were any statistics on the subject,
whether the bills on the press and minorities had been considered
and adopted by Parliament, whether political pluralism extended to
civil society and community life as a whole and whether there was
a bar council in Hungary, as well as a medical council and independent
institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights in particular.
They expressed the hope that the ratification, announced by Hungary,
of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms would rapidly become effective.
regard to the implementation of article 2 of the Convention, some
members of the Committee asked for clarification of the amendments
made to judicial supervision, and of the punishment to which an official
would be liable if he employed coercion against a suspect during interrogation.
to article 3 of the Convention, some members of the Committee requested
further information on the application of the existing extradition
procedure in Hungary.
article 4 of the Convention, some members of the Committee pointed
out that, according to the information provided by the Government
of Hungary, the provisions of the article had not been fully incorporated
into Hungarian criminal law and that article 226 of the Criminal Code
appeared to provide an extremely restrictive definition of what constituted
an act of torture. In that respect, they asked whether all forms of
torture, as defined by the Convention, constituted an offence under
the Criminal Code.
350. As for
articles 7 to 12 of the Convention, some members of the Committee
asked for further information on legal practice in respect of each
of the articles.
351. In connection
with article 10 of the Convention, some members of the Committee asked
to be provided with copies of the course manuals issued to officials
in connection with combating torture, and to be given a description
of the courses themselves. They also emphasized that adequate training
in that sphere should be provided to persons responsible for receiving
352. On article
13 of the Convention, some members of the Committee referred to the
report by Amnesty International concerning alleged ill-treatment of
certain foreigners in Hungary and asked for information on existing
machinery to investigate any complaints; more precisely, they referred
to two allegations of torture in the report by Amnesty International
and asked whether an investigation had been carried out, if it had
been completed and, if so, what conclusions it had reached.
representative of the reporting State, replying to the questions and
comments, stated that pluralization was not confined to the political
sphere but was also extended to civil society, which had various means
at its disposal for exercising control over respect for human rights.
As far as national or ethnic minorities were concerned, all of them
had their respective associations. The gypsies - the largest minority
in Hungary - had formed about 150 associations on various levels,
which were very active in human rights-related activities. There was
also a parliament of gypsies which defended the rights of that minority
at the national level. As to professional groups, the influential
Hungarian Lawyers Association constituted a guarantee of respect for
human rights, including protection against torture. A bill on the
rights of national and ethnic minorities was before the Parliament.
The bill had been discussed in the Council of Europe at Strasbourg
and had been found to represent a good approach to the issue; it covered
all aspects and needs of minorities, both national and ethnic. A bill
concerning the regulation of the media was being debated in Parliament
and it was hoped that it would shortly be enacted.
representative further stated that a bill providing for Hungary's
accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights was currently before the Parliament.
Public opinion polls had revealed a slight majority in favour of abolition
of the death penalty. Progressive abolition of harsh penalties was
a tradition of Hungarian legal doctrine, and it should not be difficult
to follow up the Constitutional Court's opinion that the death penalty
should be abolished not only for political offences but also for other
offences to which it had hitherto been applicable. The representative
explained that anyone could refer to the Convention in court and judges
could refer to it directly, but this had not been done so far because
the domestic law had proved to be adequate in this respect. Statistics
concerning cases of torture up to 1990 were available in the report;
the later statistics were only of a general character. The representative
also provided the Committee with a detailed description of the office
of the ombudsman for the protection of civil and political rights
and of the ombudsman for the protection of the rights of national
and ethnic minorities in his country.
regard to article 3 of the Convention, the representative said that
if no agreement existed with a country whose nationals should be prosecuted
for torture, Hungary would have recourse to the relevant provisions
of the Convention itself, and would extradite an alleged torturer
even in the absence of an extradition agreement.
respect to article 4 of the Convention, the representative stated
that the punishment of acts related to torture could only be carried
out according to the Penal Code. Torture, as defined in the Convention,
constituted in Hungarian law an aggravating circumstance affecting
certain acts which involved deprivation of personal freedom. Article
228 of the Criminal Code sanctioned punishments for such acts, and
the penalties had been increased under Act 17 of 1993, which also
obliged judges to deal very severely with such offences, taking into
account article 4 of the Convention.
357. As to
whether Hungarian practice conformed to articles 6 and 7 of the convention,
the representative indicated that a national of another State suspected
of having committed an offence specified in the Convention was subject
to the same treatment and procedures as a Hungarian national. Under
the Convention, problems relating to extradition must be settled according
to the principles of universal jurisdiction. He also pointed out that
Act XXXII issued in 1993 provided that every detainee must be informed
in his mother tongue of his rights as they related to all phases and
aspects of his detention.
358. In connection
with article 10 of the Convention, the representative informed the
Committee that necessary information on human rights, including that
concerning the Convention against Torture, could be obtained by citizens
from the official gazette, the press and professional publications.
In that connection, he referred to the Acta Humana series published
by the Hungarian Centre for Human Rights, issue No. 4 of which contained
a study analysing the Convention against Torture. He also described
how such information was provided to students, law enforcement personnel,
public officials and medical personnel. Provision of Convention-related
information also formed part of postgraduate training for teachers
who were provided with manuals by the Centre for Human Rights of the
United Nations Secretariat.
reference to article 11 of the Convention, the representative said
that Act XXXII of 1993 represented an overall measure for improving
all relevant provisions of the law dealing with interrogation rules,
instructions, and arrangements for any form of arrest, detention or
respect to article 13 of the Convention, the representative stated
that the judiciary were competent to take decisions on all matters
relating to detention, but Act XXXII of 1993 clearly established that
any such decisions were open to appeal. As far as the allegations
by Amnesty International were concerned, he said that they involved
a one-sided statement made by alleged victims. Under Hungarian law,
each victim had the right to turn to a competent local prosecutor
to request proceedings against the enforcement authorities. The information
available to the Government indicated that no such report had so far
reached any prosecutor; that did not mean that such a report would
not be made later as the alleged events were of very recent date.
It would seem premature, however, to deal with those allegations as
the full facts of the case were not yet available.
regard to article 15 of the Convention, the representative indicated
that cases involving evidence found to have been obtained by infringement
of the law were always deemed invalid and were at the same time punishable
under the Criminal Code, article 227 of which established prison sentences
of up to five years for persons found guilty of obtaining evidence
Conclusions and recommendations
Committee noted with satisfaction the progress made in Hungary towards
democracy and the implementation of the Convention against Torture
both in the legislative sphere and in legal practice.
Committee expressed the hope that specific provisions of the Hungarian
Criminal Code and new administrative measures would make it possible
still more effectively to prevent acts of torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Committee also suggested to the Hungarian authorities that they should
develop still further training programmes for the various professions
concerned with the application of the Convention.