Hungary: ICJ calls for re-consideration of the Law on the Administrative Courts

The ICJ today called on Hungarian President Áder János not to sign the Law on the Administrative Courts but to send it back to the Parliament for further review and discussion. In particular, the law should be re-considered in light of international standards as well as the forthcoming reasoned opinion of the Venice Commission, the ICJ said.

On 12 December, the Hungarian Parliament adopted, in a highly contested process, the Law on the Administrative Courts (T/3353). The vote took place despite the fact that an opinion of the Council of Europe Venice Commission on the new law is still awaited.

The administrative courts will have significant competencies in matters of public interest concerning the action of the executive and other public institutions. They will have jurisdiction over “administrative disputes” as well as other issues transferred to their jurisdiction by law (Article 1(3)).

The ICJ is concerned at the significant powers conferred on the executive over the proposed Administrative Courts, in particular the Minister of Justice’s powers in the appointment of administrative judges (Article 72(2)) as well as the powers of the Minister of Justice and of the Parliament in regard to the annual budget of these courts. Under the new law, judges of the administrative courts would be appointed by the Minister of Justice on the advice of a newly-established National Administrative Judicial Council, with the Minister having a discretion to reject the first-ranked nominee of the Council. In a context where the independence of the Hungarian judiciary is already being eroded, this role of the executive raises significant concerns regarding the independence of the new courts.

The new law comes at a time when measures put in place by the Hungarian government since 2011 have led to a severe deterioration of the rule of law and human rights, by weakening Constitutional rights protection, limiting judicial independence, suppressing independent media, civil society and academic institutions, and imposing arbitrary laws that violate the human rights of marginalized sections of society.

The ICJ recalls that judicial independence and the separation of powers are the bedrock of the rule of law. International law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, and other international standards such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, reflect the fundamental role of an independent judiciary in protecting human rights and the rule of law.