Hungary under review

4 October 2012, Budapest. Last week the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published its Concluding Observations for Hungary.

8th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. photo: The Hungarian government submitted its state report in June 2011 and asked for a postponement for Hungary to be reviewed by the Committee, a request which was refused. As a member of the Hungarian Disability Caucus, MDAC carried out advocacy with the Committee to adopt relevant and robust Concluding Observations. In 2010 the Caucus submitted a 254-page shadow report, detailing progress on implementing the CRPD in Hungary. In 2012 the Caucus submitted an updated report to feed into the Committee’s review.

On 20-21 September MDAC staff travelled to Geneva to attend the Committee’s session where Hungary was examined. Together with the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and an independent expert MDAC held an informal meeting with Mr Tatic, Serbian member of the CRPD Committee and the rapporteur for Hungary. We briefed him about the situation and responded to questions. We also attended a side event organised by the International Disability Alliance where we drew the Committee’s attention to discrepancies regarding legal capacity, community living and the right to vote in Hungary.

During the constructive dialogue between the Committee and the government, the Hungarian Minister for Social, Family and Youth Affairs, Miklós Soltész, said that the CRPD was a set of guidelines which would guide the efforts made by States parties. CRPD Committee member Stig Langvad reminded the government that the CRPD was not guidance but a legally binding international human rights treaty, to which the Minister clarified that Hungary is making serious efforts to implement the CRPD. The Committee noted their disappointment that no one from a disabled people’s organisation from Hungary were present at the session.

One of the most concerning issues for the Committee was the 30-year deinstitutionalisation strategy, a time-period which it said was too long. It expressed concern that Hungarian government intends to build new institutions (which the government euphemistically calls “living centres”) for up to 50 people with disabilities. The Committee stressed that community-based services need to be developed at the same time as closing down institutions.

Another area where the Committee was critical was about legal capacity. It criticised the draft Civil Code for retaining full guardianship with “totally restricted legal capacity” (another government-invented euphemism). The CRPD Committee Chair, Ronald McCallum, commented that some of the replies by the government were difficult to understand as they were overly verbose: the Chair called on the government to engage in a constructive dialogue.

Following this back-and-forth in Geneva, the Committee last published its concluding observations which formulates the Committee’s recommendations. MDAC is pleased that the Committee is more precise in this document than in previous concluding observations. Some of the highlights of the document include:


- The Committee said that people under guardianship should have the right to consent to and refuse medical treatment, to access justice, to vote, to marry, to work, and to choose where to live.

- The Committee said 30 years is too long to get people out of institutions and living in the community.

- It criticised the government spending money – including EU funds – to reconstruct large institutions, compared to the few resources spent developing community-based supports.

- The Committee reiterated that every adult with disabilities should be provided with their inalienable right to vote and stand for election. The new Hungarian Constitution regrettably allows a court to remove these rights based on a person’s perceived dis/abilities.

In 2007 Hungary became the first European country to ratify the CRPD. Since then it has taken miserably few steps to implement the Convention. The Committee’s concluding observations set out a path with minimal tasks that the Hungarian government must take to demonstrate minimal adherence to its international human rights commitments. The Committee expects the Hungarian government to report back within a year about progress it has made on legal capacity law reform and the right to vote. MDAC has been advocating these points for many years, and will continue to both support the government in making positive changes, and to play a watchdog role with regard stagnation and regression by bringing cases to court, and by alerting the Hungarian people and the international community. 


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