Amnesty International





Head of state:
Ferenc Mádl
Head of government:
Péter Medgyessy
Death penalty:
abolitionist for all crimes
UN Women’s Convention and its Optional Protocol:


Covering events from January - December 2003

There was continued concern about the ill-treatment of Roma by police. The detention policy concerning asylum-seekers undermined their rights and protection. Some institutions for people with mental disabilities used “cage beds” to restrain residents.

Discrimination against Roma

Despite government efforts to combat discrimination, particularly in the field of education, the Roma continued to face widespread discrimination in all walks of life, including the health services, employment and housing.

In May a newspaper using a hidden camera revealed that a hospital in Eger, Heves county, provided separate accommodation for Romani women in the maternity ward. In June, according to the Roma Press Centre, around 20 homeless families squatting in an old industrial plant in Budapest were ordered to leave the premises and threatened that if they did not their children, who were reportedly at risk at this site, would be taken into community care. In October the deputy director of the municipal office of Piliscsaba, Pest county, after being presented with data on the number of Roma in the community, reportedly stated, “Oh Lord, there are so many of them here, I wish Hitler had started his project with Gypsies”. She was suspended and a disciplinary procedure was initiated.

Anti-Roma prejudices remained strong among law enforcement officials. According to the Roma Press Centre, negative stereotypes were reinforced by some photographs in Zsaru Magazin (Cop Magazine) published by the National Police Headquarters. In July, three young Romani women, one of them a minor, filed a suit against the magazine after it published without their consent a photograph of them with a caption that referred to them as prostitutes. Warrants posted on the Internet site of the National Police Headquarters described some criminal suspects as speaking “similarly to the Roma, indicating that they are uneducated men” and others as being “gipsy in appearance… typically dark skinned”.

Very few of the police officers who were suspected of ill-treatment of Roma were successfully prosecuted and those convicted were lightly punished. This discouraged victims from reporting abuses or filing complaints. AI urged the General Prosecutor to investigate two incidents of police ill-treatment which appeared to be racially motivated.

  • On 13 June Cs.V., a Romani man, was stopped in his van by a police vehicle in Valkó, Pest county. He stated that as he was slowing down he heard what sounded like a gunshot. Cs.V. approached the police car and a police officer reportedly pushed him face down onto the hood and handcuffed him. Another Romani man who had observed the incident was reportedly told by an officer: “Get out, you dirty gipsy!” The man and his 12-year-old daughter fled into the courtyard of their house pursued by the officer who shouted: “All gypsies should be killed”. He then allegedly pointed his gun at the girl who, as a result, fainted. Before leaving, the officers reportedly stated that Cs.V. would not be charged if no complaint was filed against them. In November the authorities informed AI that they were still investigating the case.

Detention of asylum-seekers

Some improvements were reported in the conditions in detention facilities as well as in access of asylum-seekers to the lawyers of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a local human rights organization. However, there was continued concern about the detention policy applied to asylum-seekers, the lack of a regular monitoring mechanism concerning the fate of asylum-seekers at point of entry, and conditions in community shelters.

Because of inconsistent interpretation of regulations concerning asylum-seekers and other foreign nationals, asylum-seekers in very similar situations were treated differently – some were detained, some were not. Apart from Iraqi and Afghan nationals, single male asylum applicants and stateless people who had entered the country illegally were detained for 12 months although the spirit of the law envisages detention only as a means to implement an expulsion decision. According to HHC, no person who had been detained while their application was being reviewed had been recognized as a refugee and only a few were given permission to temporarily remain in the country. In a report issued in August, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees described this situation as “an attitude or presumption that asylum-seekers kept in detention do not deserve international protection or alternative forms of protection”.

The conditions of detention varied. Those detained in Nagykanizsa centre were confined to locked dormitories day and night. In some facilities pay telephones were outside the perimeter of the detention area.

Although not recognized as refugees, people given temporary stay permits were accommodated with many other categories of people, including convicted offenders awaiting deportation, in community shelters located within military bases and providing substandard conditions. Better services and conditions prevailed in open reception centres used by recognized refugees. These centres, unlike community shelters, reportedly had significant spare capacity in the course of the year.

Cage beds in institutions for people with mental disabilities

A report published in June by Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, a regional non-governmental organization, claimed that in a number of social care homes for people with mental disabilities cage beds were used as a method of restraint. This is considered to be cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and in violation of international human rights law as well as best professional practice. The Ministry of Health, Social and Family Affairs confirmed that cage beds were still in use and stated that this was not explicitly forbidden by law, although their use was forbidden by professional guidelines for psychiatric hospitals.

AI country visits

In June in Budapest, AI representatives met László Teleki, State Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister for Romani Affairs.

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