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Civil society under attack in Hungary

TheHungarian government tries to choke critical organisations who still dare tospeak up against human right violations.

The Hungarian government hasproposed a set of laws that if adopted will have a devastating and chillingeffect on civil society.

The proposedlegislative package is part of a wider crackdown on human rights and civilsociety organisations in Hungary, which have been under attack for severalyears. It seeks to punish the legitimate work of civil society groups that defendhuman rights, provide legal and social services, and offer support to peopleseeking international protection.

The government’s goal is simple and clear: to silenceindependent and openly critical NGOs. These include organisations such as AmnestyInternational Hungary, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the HungarianHelsinki Committee, among many others.

"This threatens the very existence of organisations doingcrucial work in Hungary”, said Julia Ivan, director Amnesty International Hungary.

These laws create a climate of fear and suspicion

If the new legislation is adopted, the government will be able to control and restrict the activities of independent human rights organisations in Hungary.

The legislative package tabled to Parliament on 13 February, the so-called “Stop Soros” laws, would require national security clearance, a government permit and for identified NGOs that the government deems as “supporting migration”. This would include work such as campaigning, ‘influencing courts’, preparing information materials, organising networks and recruiting volunteers with the goal of sponsoring, organising or otherwise supporting the entry and stay of people seeking international protection. The laws would also require organisations to pay a tax of 25% of any foreign funding aimed at ‘supporting migration’.

Failure to meet these absurd requirements could lead to exorbitant fines, bankruptcy, and the dissolving of the NGOs targeted.

The government has presented these laws in the context of its wider anti-immigration campaign. In reality, these proposals have nothing to do with protecting national security or borders. They are a clear attempt to crush those working to assist people in need and to silence those who dare to raise their voices.

What happens if the laws are adopted?

The law states that the authorities can ‘identify’ NGOs which it deems are ‘supporting migration’. The wording is vague and open for interpretation, which gives the authorities the opportunity to target, and possibly close down, a wide range of organisations.

1. According to the proposed laws, the NGOs identified would need to get a permission from the Minister of Interior in order to continue their basic functions, including campaigning, advocacy, preparing information materials, organising networks and recruiting volunteers.

2. The Minister of the Interior would then involve national security services for security clearance. This procedure may take up to nine months.

3. The law would also require organisations to pay a tax of 25 per cent of any foreign funding aimed at ‘supporting migration’. If they refuse or are unable to pay, this could lead to high fines, deletion of the tax number, bankruptcy, and the dissolving of the organisation.

SolidarityAction with Civil Society in Hungary

The actions by the Hungariangovernment are disturbing and unjustified. Again and again the authorities havecrossed red lines but this has not remained unseen.

The defenders of rights and freedomsin Hungary are not alone, and an attack on them means an attack on all thosethat dare to speak out and protect others.

More than 250 organisations andplatforms across the world including the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) have signed a solidarity letter stating their grave concern over theproposed laws in Hungary, and showing their support to NGOs doing crucial workand whose very existence is at risk. With one voice, civil societyorganisations from around the world are urging the authorities to stop thecrackdown on human rights defenders.

Text of theletter and signatories:

On 13 February 2018, theHungarian government tabled to Parliament a proposed legislative pack of threelaws, commonly referred to as “Stop Soros”. The newly proposed legislationwould further restrict Hungarian civil society ability to carry out their work,by requiring organizations that “support migration” to obtain national securityclearance and a government permit to perform basic functions. The proposed lawwould also require organizations to pay a tax of 25% of any foreign fundingaimed at “supporting migration”.

Failure to do so, wouldsubject them to steps so serious that they could lead to exorbitant fines,bankruptcy, and the dissolving of the NGO involved.

These come in a contextof already shrinking space for civil society in Hungary and contraveneHungary’s obligations under international law to protect the right to freedomof association, expression and movement.

We believe the newproposals represent the latest initiative in the Hungarian government'sescalating effort to crackdown on the legitimate work of civil society groupsin Hungary seeking to promote and defend human rights, provide legal and socialservices to people in need in the country, and publicly express dissentingopinions in the press and online.

As defenders of rightsand freedoms, we want people everywhere to be able to speak out without beingattacked, threatened or jailed. Open debate on matters relating to governmentpolicies and practice is necessary in every society, and human rights defendersshould not face criminalization for voicing their sometimes dissenting voices.Countries need to put laws in place which keep human rights defenders safe fromharm, rather than introducing repressive laws that aim to silence those whospeak out.

Human rights defendersdefend the rights of people in their own communities and their countries, andin doing so they protect all of our rights, globally. Human rights defendersare often the last line of defence for a free and just society and undertakeimmense personal risks and sacrifices to do their work.

We stand in solidaritywith civil society and human rights defenders in Hungary.

They are courageouspeople, committed to creating a fairer society. Without their courage, theworld we live in would be less fair, less just and less equal.

We are calling on theHungarian Parliament to reject the proposed laws in their entirety and let theNGOs and defenders continue their work, instead of defending themselves againstsuch attacks.

The below listed organizations declare their support andsolidarity with non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders inHungary:

ILGA – Europe

Civil Liberties Union forEurope (Liberties)

Human Rights Watch

AEDH - AssociationEuropeenne de Droits de l'Homme

FIDH, within theframework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

World Organisationagainst Torture, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders

Light for the World

Funders’ Initiative forCivil Society

Urgent Action Fund forWomen's Human Rights

CONCORD - EuropeanConfederation of Relief and development NGOs

Human Rights First

Transgender Europe

Greenpeace Central andEastern Europe

International CivilSociety Centre

Reporters sans Frontières

ENAR - European NetworkAgainst Racism

European Volunteer Centre

Civil Society Europe

Protection International- Belgium

çavaria vzw - Belgium

11.11.11. - Belgium

Artsen zonder Vakantie –Belgium

VluchtelingenwerkVlaanderen - Belgium

Liga voor mensenrechten –Belgium

WWF Belgium - Belgium

ACAT - Belgique/ Belgie/Belgium

Volonteurope Belgium - Belgium

CROSOL - CroatianPlatform for International Citizen Solidarity - Croatia

Centre for Peace Studiesfrom Zagreb – Croatia

GONG – Croatia

Brod EcologicalSociety-BED - Croatia

Documenta – Center forDealing with the Past – Croatia

CESI-Center forEducation, Counselling and Research – Croatia

Human Rights House Zagreb– Croatia

Rehabilitation center forstress and trauma – Croatia

Adra Česká republika –Czech Republic

Open Society Fund/ NadaceOSF Praha – Czech Republic

TransparencyInternational ČR– Czech Republic

Člověk v tísni –People in Need – Czech Republic

Forum 2000 - The Forum2000 Foundation - Czech Republic

META – Společnost propříležitosti mladých migrantů - Association for opportunities of young migrants- Czech Republic

Most pro o.p.s. -poradna pro cizince – Czech Republic

SIMI – Sdružení prointegraci a migraci – Association for integration and migration- Czech Republic

Glopolis – Glopolis -Czech Republic

Centrum pro integracicizinců - Centre for Integration of Foreigners - Czech Republic

Diakonie (Českobratrskécírkve evangelické) – Diaconia (Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren) - CzechRepublic

Most - Czech Republic

Konsorcium nevládníchorganizací pracujících s migranty – Consortium of Migrants AssistingOrganizations - Czech Republic

DEMAS – Association forDemocracy Assistance and Human Rights - Asociace pro podporu demokracie alidských práv - Czech Republic

Pavel Havlicek, Analystat the Research Centre, Association for International Affairs Prague, CzechRepublic

Organizace pro pomocuprchlíkům – Organization for aid to refugees

Denmark Nyt Europa – Denmark

KehitysmaayhdistysPääskyt ry - Finland

Suomen Pakolaisapu |Finnish Refugee Council - Finland

ETMU ry (Society for theStudy of Ethnic Relations and International Migration) - Finland

Suomen Nuorisoyhteistyö –Allianssi ry - Finland

Suomen Setlementtiliitto- Finland

Ensi- ja turvakotienliitto - Finland

Suomen Mielenterveysseurary - Finland

Ihmisoikeusliitto ry -Finnish League for Human Rights - Finland

KehitysyhteistyöjärjestöjenEU-yhdistys Kehys ry - The Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU Kehys - Finland

Vammaisten perus- jaihmisoikeusjärjestö Kynnys ry - Finland

Suomen somalialaistenliitto - Finland

Seta LGBTIQ Rights inFinland - Finland

Trasek ry - Finland

LSVD – Germany

HES – Germany

ADRA Deutschland e.V -Germany

BAfF e.V.-BundesweiteArbeitsgemeinschaft Psychosozialer Zentren für Flüchtlinge und Folteropfer - Germany

Forum Menschenrechte -Germany

VENRO - VerbandEntwicklungspolitik und humanitäre Hilfe deutscherNichtregierungsorganisationen e.V. - Germany

SolidaritätsdienstInternational e.V. (SODI) - Germany

Adivasi-Koordination inDeutschland e.V. - Germany

ACAT-Deutschland e.V. -Germany

MissionsärztlichesInstitut Würzburg - Germany

DeutschesMedikamenten-Hilfswerk action medeor e.V. - Germany

Deutsche KommissionJustitia et Pax - Germany

Germanwatch e.V. - Germany

Welthaus Bielefeld e.V. –Germany

Civil Liberties Union forEurope e.V." - Germany

CILD - Italian CivilLiberties Advocacy Coalition – Italy

Dr Andrea Gullotta,Memorial Italia Italy

Antigone - Italy

Front Line Defenders –Ireland

Irish Nurses and Midwivesorganisation – Ireland

Christian Aid Ireland –Ireland

Transgender EqualityNetwork Ireland - Ireland

Latvian Platform forDevelopment Cooperation - Latvia

Latvia's Association forFamily Planning and Sexual Health – Latvia

ASTI (Association de Soutienaux Travailleurs Immigrés) - Luxembourg

Passerell - Luxembourg

ACAT Luxemburg -Luxembourg

Reech eng Hand -Luxembourg

Caritas Luxembourg -Luxembourg

Aidsfonds – Netherlands

Amsterdamse Diakonie –Netherlands

Article 19 – Netherlands

ASKV - SteunpuntVluchtelingen – Netherlands

Blikopeners – Netherlands

Civicus – Netherlands

Clara Wichmannfonds –Netherlands

Dance4Life – Netherlands

Dutch section of theInternational Commission of Jurists (NJCM) – Netherlands

Free Press Unlimited –Netherlands

Humanistisch Verbond –Netherlands

Humanity House –Netherlands

IMMO - instituut voorMensenrechten en Medisch Onderzoek – Netherlands

INLIA - InternationalNetwork of Local Initiatives with Asylumseekers – Netherlands

Justice and Peace Project– Netherlands

KOMPASS – Netherlands

La Strada - Netherlands

Libereco - Partnershipfor Human Rights – Netherlands

Milieudefensie –Netherlands

Movies that Matter –Netherlands

Netherlands HelsinkiCommittee – Netherlands

Foundation Max van derStoel - Netherlands

NVJ - NederlandseVereniging van Journalisten – Netherlands

Oxfam – Netherlands

Partizan Publik –Netherlands

Pax – Netherlands

Power of Art House –Netherlands

Privacy First –Netherlands

Prospector – Netherlands

Stichting LOS - LandelijkOngedocumenteerden Steunpunt – Netherlands

Stichting Vluchteling –Netherlands

Stichting voorVluchteling-Studenten – UAF – Netherlands

The Amsterdam Gay Pride –Netherlands

The Hague Peace Projects –Netherlands

Transnational Institute(TNI) – Netherlands

VLot - fonds voorvluchtelingen – Netherlands

VluchtelingenWerk NL -Netherlands

Fundacja im. StefanaBatorego - Poland

Sieć Obywatelska WatchdogPolska - Poland

Projekt: Polska - Poland

Stowarzyszenie przeciwAntysemityzmowi i Ksenofobii Otwarta Rzeczpospolita - Poland

StowarzyszenieInterwencji Prawnej - Poland

Instytut SprawPublicznych - Poland

Fundacja ePaństwo -Poland

Panoptykon - Poland

Polskie Towarzystwo PrawaAntydyskryminacyjnego - Poland

Fundacja Pole Dialogu -Poland

Polski Instytut PrawCzłowieka I Biznesu - Poland

Stowarzyszenie WillaDecjusza - Poland

Pracownia Badań iInnowacji Społecznych "Stocznia - Poland

Towarzystwo EdukacjiAntydyskryminacyjnej - Poland

Fundacja Autonomia -Poland

Stowarzyszenie Klon/Jawor- Poland

Małopolskie TowarzystwoOświatowe z Nowego Sącza - Poland

Fundacja Ari Ari - Poland

Ogólnopolska FederacjaOrganizacji Pozarządowych - Poland

Instytut Prawa iSpołeczeństwa - Poland

Fundacja Partners Polska –Poland

Helsińska Fundacja PrawCzłowieka - Poland

Grupy Zagranica – Poland

The Unit for SocialInnovation & Research Shipyard - Poland

INPRIS - Institute forLaw and Society - Poland

National Federation ofPolish NGOs - Poland

Centre for InternationalRelations (CIR) - Poland

Citizens Network WatchdogPoland - Poland

Institute of PublicAffairs - Poland

Association againstAnti-Semitism and Xenophobia Open Republic -Poland

Stefan Batory Foundation Poland

​Danuta Przywara,President of the Board, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights Poland

Inițiativa România -Romania

NGOs Federation forChildren Romania - Romania

RISE Romania - Romania

Resource Center forPublic Participation - CeRe (Romania) -Romania

FONSS (The Federation ofNon-Governmental Organisations for Social Services) - Romania

Gabriela Tudor Foundation - Romania

Mediawise SocietyAssociation - Romania

The Civil SocietyDevelopment Foundation - Romania

Expert Forum - Romania

Center for IndependentJournalism - Romania

Federatia OrganizatiilorNeguvernamentale pentru Copil - Romania

Asociatia One WorldRomania - Romania

Asociatia MilitiaSpirituala - Romania

ActiveWatch - Romania

CENTRAS - Romania

Asociatia Pro Democratia- Romania

Agenția Impreuna - Romania

Fundatia Estuar - Romania

Dizabnet – Federatiaprestatorilor pentru persoane cu dizabilitati - Romania

The Swedish Organisationfor Individual Relief - Romania

Alaturi de Voi Romania –Romania

Moscow Helsinki Group –Russia

Igor Vladimirovich Batov,Chairman of the Council of the Pskov Regional Environmental Rights Human RightsMovement ʺFree Coastʺ, a member of the Public Chamber of the Pskov region -Russia

Andrei Suslov, Center forCitizanship Education and Human Rights, Perm – Russia

Evdokimova NataliaLeonidovna, Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg. - Russia

Lilia Shibanova, memberof the Moscow Helsinki Group Russia

Bureau for RegionalOutreach Campaigns - BROC Vladivostok,Russia

Pride Kosice - Slovakia

Central European Forum -Slovakia

Human Rights League -Slovakia

Slovak HumanitarianCouncil - Slovakia

People in Need Slovakia -Slovakia

Via Iuris - Slovakia

Inakosť - Slovakia

Transfuzia - Slovakia

Bi-centrum - Slova

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