U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Should Encourage Government to Protect Human Rights, Rule of Law

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged U.S. Ambassador Colleen Bell to press Hungary to adopt policies that would improve the rule of law while strengthening democratic institutions and human rights protections in the country. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino as Hungarian President Viktor Orban receives Russian President Vladimir Putin in Budapest.

“The visit to Budapest of Russian President Vladimir Putin comes at a time of extraordinary tension between Russia, the United States and the European Union over Russian aggression in Ukraine, and underscores the formidable challenges you face,” wrote Massimino. “Hungary’s current course risks the country deteriorating into authoritarianism and becoming a haven for hatred and persecution of minorities. We urge you to do all you can to help Hungary shift course onto a path that will lead to strengthened democracy, human rights and good governance for all.”

Human Rights First’s report, “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” details how the Hungarian government’s actions over the past four years have eroded democratic institutions and the rule of law, curtailed religious and media freedoms, and failed to combat a rising tide of antisemitism. These actions have led to a series of rebukes by the European Union, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and from Hungary’s own Supreme Court.

In today’s letter, Massimino urged Ambassador Bell to take the following steps to turn bring Hungary back from the brink of authoritarianism:

  • Highlight the importance of fighting corruption;
  • Support civil society;
  • Hold Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to his zero tolerance pledge on antisemitism;
  • Highlight Russian influence, particularly penetration of Russian propaganda into Hungarian media; and,
  • Encourage public private partnerships and U.S. trade and investment.

“There is movement in Hungary toward authoritarianism and intolerance toward minorities, and Prime Minister Orbán has been repositioning the country to ally more closely with Russia,” wrote Massimino. “We believe the United States can play an important role in helping steer Hungary onto a path to greater stability, stronger democracy, and increased prosperity by countering these disturbing trends.”


Published on February 17, 2015


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