Indefinite rule by decree in Hungary's COVID-19 response a serious concern, say OSCE PA human rights leaders

COPENHAGEN, 1 April 2020 – The granting of emergency powers in Hungary that enable the government to rule by decree without a foreseen termination date is a dangerous step that undermines democracy in the country, said OSCE PA human rights leaders today.

On 30 March the Hungarian parliament approved a request by the government to extend extraordinary powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID has had many casualties already, but I fear that democratic rule in Hungary is now also in serious jeopardy. The lack of parliamentary oversight or a clear end-date for this state of emergency is a very worrying development and I hope that the Hungarian people will demand that parliament reclaims its central place in decision-making,” said Kyriakos Hadijiyianni (MP, Cyprus), Chair of the PA's General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.

In its 2019 Luxembourg Declaration, the OSCE PA urged “OSCE national parliaments to exercise full oversight of extraordinary measures and of any limitations on fundamental freedoms and human rights in cases of emergency and to regularly evaluate whether such measures may be considered legitimate, taking into account modern communication methods.”

“Many countries have granted emergency powers to governments to deal with the current crisis, but the lack of parliamentary oversight is particular to Hungary and of particular concern. We cannot allow parliament to be sidelined in this battle for the health of our societies,” said Vice-Chair Michael Georg Link (MP, Germany).

The new legislation foresees imprisonment of up to five years for distribution of misinformation that obstruct or frustrate the effectiveness of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Kari Henriksen (MP, Norway), Assembly Vice-President and Rapporteur of the Committee, “Fake news particularly in a crisis such as this health pandemic is a serious problem, but we cannot allow responses to stifle reporting. The Hungarian approach can instill fear in the media that they may face jail time for reporting on issues of public concern.”

On Tuesday, Henriksen published an op-ed dealing with the human rights obligations of governments during states of emergencies and the importance of ensuring the normal functioning of legislative bodies to the highest possible extent.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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