NGO Raids Demonstrate Need for New U.S. Strategy in Hungary
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today condemned the Hungarian government’s renewed raids on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and called on President Obama to adopt a strategy to counter Hungary’s backsliding on democracy and human rights.
“Regardless of the merits of the government’s case against the NGOs, the use of police special forces to raid the offices of democracy and human rights organizations shows how far the Hungarian government is willing to go to intimidate groups it sees as enemies,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron, coauthor of a recent report that details Hungary’s slow movement toward authoritarianism.
Yesterday dozens of officers from Hungarian special police units reportedly raided the offices Ökotárs Foundation and Demnet Foundation, which distribute funding to other Hungarian NGOs promoting democracy, civil society, environmental awareness, and independent media. The police locked down the Ökotárs and Demnet offices, seized documents and data, and went to the homes of NGO employees and seized their computers. The Hungarian government alleges that the Norway Fund has given grant money to these NGOs which in turn passed the funds to a leftist political party in violation of Hungarian election law.
Monday’s raid is part of a larger pattern of intimidation not only of the two NGOS who administered the funding but 13 other NGOs that received foreign funds, even though it is legal to do so in Hungary. The investigation and harassment has been going on for seven months. Norway has protested to Hungary and the European Union without success.
“It’s no longer clear that Hungary is a rights-respecting democracy,” added Efron. “President Obama should speak out against its embrace of what Prime Minister Orban described as ‘illiberal democracy’ and work with America’s E.U. allies to ensure that Hungary cannot continue to enjoy the economic and security protections of the E.U. and NATO while ignoring European democratic norms.”
For more information, see Human Rights First’s report, “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care.”