Bipartisan Resolution Addresses Eroding Democracy in Hungary

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today applauded introduction of new bipartisan legislation expressing deep concern over the Government of Hungary weakening democratic institutions, undermine free elections, and limiting civil society and a free press in Hungary. The resolution was introduced by Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Joe Wilson (R-SC), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). Human Rights First calls for swift passage of today’s legislation and for further steps to be taken to rebuff Hungarian government’s efforts to weaken its strategic partnership with the United States.

“Today’s resolution sends a strong message that the United States will not stand idly by while its allies undermine the democracies that their people fought so hardly for,” said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. “After President Trump rolled out the red carpet for Viktor Orban, it’s heartening to see members from both parties come together and announce that while the White House might not care about Hungary’s decline, Congress surely does.”

Hungary, a member of the European Union and a NATO ally, is slipping precipitously from a democratic success story toward autocratic rule. It is severely curtailing judicial independence, consolidating most media into the hands of government-connected oligarchs, limiting academic freedom by kicking out a major American university, and raiding and harassing NGOs. At the same time, Hungary is drawing closer to Russia. Orban’s party, Fidesz, blocked Ukraine from negotiating with NATO, refused to extradite two Russian arms dealers to the United States—instead handed them over to Russia—and is pursuing a costly addition to a nuclear power plant in partnership with Russia, despite serious concerns by independent analysts.

The validation of antisemitism and distortion of the Holocaust are also growing concerns. The Fidesz party regularly employs antisemitic imagery to target Hungarian billionaire George Soros—whom it accuses of plotting to send migrants to harm the country—by blanketing cities with billboards containing racist tropes. Recently, Orban gave control of a planned Holocaust museum to a Holocaust distorter, and it appears the museum may attempt to rewrite history involving Hungarian complicity during the Holocaust.

“As a member of a number of international bodies pledged to upholding the truth of the Holocaust and to fighting antisemitism, it is necessary for Hungary to continue maintaining a proper and moral relationship to this history,” added Robert Williams, director of countering antisemitism and extremism at Human Rights First. “America must continue working with its Hungarian allies on building greater awareness of the need to fight antisemitism in all of its forms.”

Human Rights First urges the United States to reexamine its policy toward Hungary and calls on the administration to be more vocal, critical, and active in imposing consequences when fundamental values are undermined.


Published on May 28, 2019


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