Human Rights First Urges Support for Civil Society in Hungary Ahead of June Elections

WASHINGTON – In anticipation of high-stakes municipal and European Parliament elections in Hungary on June 9, Human Rights First released a new report, “Dismantling Democracy: Hungary’s Assault on Civil Society,” which details threats facing human rights defenders (HRDs) from the country’s far-right and increasingly authoritarian government. 

“My interviews with local HRDs, foreign diplomats, and political analysts in Hungary make it clear that Orbán’s rhetoric and policies have made Hungary a hostile and intimidating environment for civil society, but a safe space for far-right extremists. HRDs are urging the U.S. and European allies to support civil society against Orbán’s ongoing assault on democracy and the rule of law,” said Human Rights Investigations Researcher Maya Fernandez-Powell, author of the report. 

Since Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was first elected in 2010, he and his ruling party Fidesz have rolled back democratic safeguards and pushed the country towards autocracy.  

The report details how Orbán’s administration has orchestrated many challenges for HRDs, including new harmful anti-NGO legislation, sophisticated government propaganda that targets civil society, and an emboldened network of far-right extremist groups who threaten minority communities.

In the report, Human Rights First  offers recommendations from HRDs on how the U.S. Government can support civil society and protect democracy in Hungary, including:  

  • Continue to publicly denounce anti-NGO legislation in Hungary and show solidarity with local civil society.  
  • Defend the right of local NGOs—in Hungary and elsewhere—to accept international funding and to operate free from restriction so they can do their work. 
  • Encourage members of Congress to visit Hungary and to meet local HRDs to hear firsthand the impact of far-right extremism on their work.
  • Work with Congress to authorize and appropriate funding to strengthen Hungary’s civil society and independent media, including supporting smaller civil society organizations and democracy initiatives outside of the capital.  
  • Apply Global Magnitsky sanctions and Section 7031(c) visa restrictions to Hungarian officials involved in corruption that has contributed to democratic backsliding in the country, building upon visa bans issued against suspected corrupt actors in 2014. 

Human Rights First has worked with HRDs in Hungary for many years to document human rights violations and make recommendations on how the U.S. government should respond to the Hungarian government’s assault on democratic institutions and the rule of law. 

To speak with Maya Fernandez-Powell, author of the report, or other experts at Human Rights First, please contact [email protected].


Published on May 15, 2024


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