Hungary: NGOs call for monitoring of detention rights

26 October 2011. MDAC and NGO partners are concerned that the Hungarian draft law on monitoring rights in places of detention does not yet comply with international law as mental health and social care institutions are left out. 

The Hungarian government has issued a bill to prepare for its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). This piece of international law will oblige Hungary to set up a body to visit places of detention: the OPCAT calls such a body an National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

MDAC calls on the government to ensure that the NPM visits not only prisons and police stations but also mental health and social care institutions (as well as juvenile facilities, refugee centres, substance abuse treatment facilities, elderly homes, etc.). It is incumbent on parliament now to make the necessary changes. As the 2010 report of Hungary’s Central Statistical Bureau indicates that there are at least 24,000 people with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities housed long-term in large residential institutions. Such institutions are often in remote areas and there is no regular monitoring of them. This means that the public has no idea what is happening inside these institutions and violence, abuse and neglect can happen with impunity and without any public oversight.

“MDAC is concerned with the way in which the Hungarian government reached out to civil society to comment on the bill”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director on Detention Monitoring, “And we ask the government to consider NGOs to be active citizens and involve NGOs in a formal way in carrying out monitoring as part of the NPM”.

MDAC aligns itself with the recommendations submitted by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee made within the consultation period (Hungarian language recommendations and press release are available). On 17 October the government published the draft bill online, setting a deadline of 21 October 2011 for NGOs to comment – leaving them only four days to do so. The government then ignored its own deadline and sent the bill to parliament on 21 October without informing the NGOs of their intention, meaning that the government did not take into account of NGOs’ views.

For further information, contact MDAC’s work on detention monitoring is funded by Zennström Philanthropies. To contribute to our work please click here.

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