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NEWS

PRESS RELEASE Hungary: limits on prison monitoring jeopardise fairness and efficiency of European Arrest Warrants

editor - October 20, 2017

Today, civil society organizations from across Europe are jointly campaigning to raise awareness of the recent decision by the Hungarian government to terminate, after 18 years, the mandate of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) to monitor places of detention in Hungary. This is just the latest move to curb the freedom and independence of civil society in the country, and comes at a time when independent monitoring of prison conditions in Hungary could not be more needed.

Over the last 18 years, HHC has visited police detention cells 1200+ times and penitentiary institutions 77 times. Its reports have contributed significantly to raising awareness of major issues with inhumane detention conditions in Hungarian prisons; a problem so pervasive that the European Court of Human Rights recently judged Hungary to have systemically violated the right to be free from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This is an issue that extends far beyond Hungary, however.

HHC_1Inhumane conditions in detention facilities are at the heart of recent efforts to reform the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), the mechanism through which EU countries extradite persons for criminal trials or to serve custodial sentences. At Fair Trials, we have long been documenting human rights concerns with the use of the European Arrest Warrant, such as the prevalence of inhumane conditions for persons extradited pursuant to an EAW. This is why we welcomed last year’s judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that affirmed the duty of Member States to conduct rigorous human rights enquiries prior to deciding surrender cases, and to block surrenders where there is a real risk that requested people will be subjected to detention conditions that infringe their fundamental rights.

On Wednesday, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova emphasized that “more efficient cooperation between justice authorities will improve safety in Europe,” citing cases of terrorists brought to justice thanks to the EAW. The Commissioner was speaking at the launch of a handbook on the EAW designed in part to help EU countries to implement the CJEU’s decision, and to more efficiently make determinations of the risks of inhumane treatment in prisons and detention facilities before extraditing someone pursuant to an EAW.

To do this, judges need up-to-date and detailed information from reliable and objective sources acting independent of government influence. By cutting off the ability of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee to provide that information, the Hungarian government has limited the information that will be available to judges from across Europe to make their assessments and process EAWs in a timely and efficient fashion. It has cut off one of the only independent voices for reform and improvement in Hungarian prisons. And in doing so it has both undermined the EAW and increased the likelihood that people in Hungary and from across Europe will continue to be subject to inhumane treatment in Hungary. It has, in short, made us all less safe.

Fair Trials stands firmly behind the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the citizens of Hungary seeking an open and democratic society. It urges the institutions of the European Union and the Member States of the EU to do likewise. And it calls on the Hungarian government to reverse the course it has set itself on against an independent civil society in the country.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71. For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page. CFB iconlick to share this story on Facebook

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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