The ICJ welcomes today’s judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that the removal from office of Hungarian Supreme Court President András Baka violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The Court found that the pre-mature termination of his appointment deprived him of a fair process and was based on public statements he made that were critical of certain justice system reforms.
The ICJ intervened as third party in this case. The judgment is expected to be influential around the world in cases involving judicial independence and expression.
“Today’s judgment is a vindication for the security of tenure and freedom of expression of judges not only in Hungary, but around the world,” said Massimo Frigo, ICJ Europe Programme Legal Adviser.
“Judges should never be precluded from exercising their right and duty to speak out in protection of judicial independence,” he added.
In its ruling, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that, by ending his prescribed term in office pre-maturely through a targeted legislative reform because of his public criticism, Hungary had violated his right to freedom of expression, under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Court held that expressing statements on the reform of the judiciary and other legislation was not only Judge Baka’s right, but also his duty.
The Court further ruled that former Supreme Court President András Baka had enjoyed a right to access courts to challenge his dismissal, and that his removal from office by a law that precluded such challenges violated article 6 of the ECHR on the right to a fair hearing.
In its judgment, the European Court cited a wide range of United Nations, European, Inter-American, and other international instruments and standards on judicial independence and freedom of expression.
The International Commission of Jurists anticipates that the Court’s ruling and reasons will have an important influence on cases concerning judicial independence and expression around the world.
Judge András Baka, former judge of the European Court of Human Rights from 1991 to 2008, had been appointed as President of the Supreme Court of Hungary on 22 June 2009.
His term in office, which was on his appointment guaranteed by law to continue until 22 June 2015, was prematurely terminated on 1 January 2012 following the entry into force of the Transitional Provisions of the new Hungarian Constitution.
This rule modified the eligibility requirements for the position of President of the Supreme Court, effectively excluding judge András Baka from the position.
Judge András Baka was also President of the National Council of Justice, and had publicly expressed criticism concerning various legal reforms brought on by the Hungarian Government that he considered to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The judgment can be downloaded in PDF format.
The ICJ also recently published a comprehensive analysis of relevant global standards in its Practitioners Guide No. 13 on judicial accountability.
An online compilation of global and regional standards on independence and accountability of judges, lawyers and prosecutors is also available here.
Massimo Frigo, Legal Adviser, ICJ Europe Programme, t: +41 22 979 38 05 ; e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.orgNewsWeb stories