Constitutional Provisions

According to Article II of the 2011 Constitution:

Human dignity shall be inviolable. Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; embryonic and foetal life shall be subject to protection from the moment of conception.

Article III(1) provides that: "No person shall be subjected to torture, any inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or be enslaved."

Article VIII(1) states that: "Every person shall have the right to peaceful assembly."

Article 46 of the Constitution governs the police in Hungary:

1. The fundamental duties of the police shall include the prevention and investigation of offences, and the protection of public security, law and order, and the state borders.

2. The operation of the police shall be directed by the Government.

6. The detailed rules for the organisation and operation of the police ... shall be defined by a cardinal Act.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1950 European Convention on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Section 15 of Act XXXIV of 1994 on the Police provides that:

(1) A police measure shall not cause damage which is manifestly disproportionate to the legitimate aim of the measure.

(2) Should several police measures or means of coercion be available, the one which causes the least restriction, injury or damage to the affected person shall be chosen, while securing efficiency.

Section 54 of the Police Act governs the use of firearms:

(1) A police officer may use a firearm for:

a) averting a direct threat to or attack on the life of another person

b) averting a direct attack gravely endangering limb ...

g) to apprehend, or to prevent the escape of, the perpetrator who took someone's life intentionally ...

k) averting an attack against his own life, limb or personal freedom.

These provisions are more permissive than international law, which only allows use of a firearm where it is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.

Section 56 of the Police Act provides as follows:

(1) Any discharging of a firearm shall be preceded, in the order of listing, by

a) instructing the person concerned to comply with the police measure;
b) applying other means of coercion;
c) warning that a firearm will be discharged;
d) a warning shot.

(2) The measures preceding the discharging of a firearm may be partly or fully set aside if, under the circumstances of the case, there is no time for the preceding measures and the delay directly endangers the success of the measure or the life or limb of the police officer or any third person.

Police Oversight

Since 2008 a Police Complaints Body, The Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) has been competent to address complaints against the police, including of unlawful use of force.

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Hungary, the Human Rights Committee called on Hungary to:

Take appropriate measures to strengthen the Independent Police Complaints Board, to expand its investigatory powers and to ensure its independence in carrying out investigations of alleged misconduct by police officers.

Caselaw

Global

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Hungary, the Human Rights Committee noted with concern

reports of collective and violent expulsions, allegedly accompanied by heavy beatings, attacks by police dogs and shooting with rubber bullets, which have resulted in severe injuries and, at least in one case, in the death of an asylum seeker....

Regional

Haász and Szabó v. Hungary (2015)

This case before the European Court of Human Rights concerned two women who, after returning from an excursion to a lake, they decided to spend the night in their car. During the night a volunteer law-enforcement officer was tipped off about the sighting of a suspicious car. He informed an off-duty police officer and together they went in search of the car.

On noticing the applicants’ car, they parked in front of it, got out of their vehicle and started to run towards it. The first applicant, frightened by the sight of two people in civilian clothes running towards her, attempted to drive away. The police officer waved at the car shouting “Police! Stop!” and fired a warning shot. He then shot twice more at the car, the second shot narrowly missing the second applicant’s head. The officer eventually put his gun away and presented his police ID at which point it became clear that the incident was based on a misunderstanding. The police officer’s superior, investigating the officer’s use of his firearm, concluded that while he had no intention of endangering life, his actions had been unprofessional. The Prosecutors Office discontinued the criminal investigation finding that the police officer’s use of his firearm had been lawful in face of the danger represented by the car driving towards him and accepting the officer’s account that he had fired the shots because he had believed there was a danger to his colleague’s life.

In their application to the European Court, the applicants complained of violations of the right to life under the Convention. The second applicant’s application was declared inadmissible as it was lodged out of time. The Court held that the fact that the force used against the first applicant was not lethal did not exclude examination of her complaints under Article 2. Even though the police officer had not intended to kill her, the use of a firearm shot in her direction and narrowly missing the second applicant’s head had generated a risk of serious injury or loss of life. Thus, she was a victim of conduct which, by its nature, put her life at risk and Article 2 was applicable.

The Court noted that the police officer had intervened in order to stop the applicants’ car as he believed there was a danger his colleague would be run over. However, after discovering the car, the officers had established that there were no signs of any criminal act. There had been no immediate need for action, whether to effect an arrest or to prevent the commission of a crime. When approaching the applicants and blocking the path of their car the officers did not pay any heed to the fact that neither of the persons in the car was wanted by the police or posed any known danger. The applicants could not possibly have known that the men approaching their car were law-enforcement officers since the officers were dressed in plain clothes, had no insignia and were driving an unmarked car. To approach the car in the dark without any visible identification and create a threatening setting by blocking the car’s path had been liable to provoke an unpredictable reaction from those inside the car. In addition, the conduct of the two officers had been without any instruction or supervision by a senior officer.

In sum, the Court found that the police officer’s actions before the shooting were not reasonable in the light of the available information on the nature of the threat posed and were not conducted in such a way as to minimise the risk of the events unfolding into a life-threatening situation culminating in the use of firearms.

Downloads

2011 Constitution of Hungary

Hungary Act XXXIV of 1994 on the Police

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Hungary (2018)

Haász and Szabó v. Hungary (2015)