Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praises members of Congress for sending a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urging him to abandon plans to build the Nazi Occupation Monument in Budapest. The monument, which has been criticized for minimizing the role Hungarians played during the Holocaust, has been the subject of protests in Hungary.
“The Orban government has pursued a policy of distorting history to deflect the responsibility of Hungarians for the events of the Holocaust,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke, who recently returned from Hungary where he was part of a Human Rights First team researching the rise of far-right parties and their effect on human rights. “We applaud U.S. lawmakers for speaking out against this attempt to rewrite history.”
Construction of the monument has been fraught with debate. Members of the Jewish community have protested plans for the monument and police have dragged Holocaust survivors from the protest site.
Human Rights First calls on the Obama Administration to echo Congress and urge Orban to change course on construction of the monument. Prime Minister Orban’s policies pose a challenge to U.S. interests in maintaining a peaceful, free, and rights-respecting Eastern Europe. Orban has expanded political and economic ties to Russia, including signing a $15 billion deal in February to have Russia build a nuclear power plant. He has also pushed through constitutional “reforms” that have significantly eroded democratic norms, judicial independence, and human rights protections. While Orban has denounced hate crimes, he has failed to prosecute them or to attack the underlying hatred and discrimination that remain widespread.
The revised Hungarian constitution and a series of new laws have eroded checks and balances and limited the ability of citizens to challenge official abuses. In last month’s parliamentary elections, one in five Hungarian voters cast a ballot for the far-right Jobbik Party, which has been widely criticized for four years for its antisemitic, anti-Roma and xenophobic ideology. Hungary is also poised to become chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance next year.
“In light of these circumstances, it is inappropriate for Hungary to assume chairmanship of the alliance,” added Stahnke.