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Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Hungary, U.N. Doc. A/48/44, paras. 342-364 (1993).



Convention Abbreviation: CAT


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture


342. The 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).

343. The 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 The communist one-party system with its socio-political order had been replaced by a pluralist society, a functioning democracy and the rule of law.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).

344. During the period under review Hungary had withdrawn its reservations concerning articles 20 and 30, paragraph 1, of the Convention and it had recognized by declaration the competence of the Committee under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.

345. The 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.

346. Some 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.

347. With 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.

348. Turning to article 3 of the Convention, some members of the Committee requested further information on the application of the existing extradition procedure in Hungary.

349. Concerning 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 refugees.

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.

353. The 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.

354. The 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.

355. With 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.

356. With 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.

359. With 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 imprisonment.

360. With 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.

361. With 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 under duress.

Conclusions and recommendations

362. The 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.

363. The 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.

364. The 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.



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