GENEVA (15 November 2018) - UN human rights experts have taken the unprecedented step of suspending an official visit to Hungary after they were denied access to the Röszke and Tompa “transit zones” at the border with Serbia where migrants and asylum seekers, including children, are deprived of their liberty.
“There can be no doubt that holding migrants in these ‘transit zones’ constitutes deprivation of liberty in accordance with international law,” said Elina Steinerte and Sètondji Roland Adjovi, members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. “We have received a number of credible reports concerning the lack of safeguards against arbitrary detention in these facilities which called for a visit by the Working Group.”
Hungary had invited the delegation to conduct the visit from 12 to 16 November 2018 in order to follow up on its 2013 recommendations*.
Under the terms of reference for visits by independent experts appointed by the UN’s Human Rights Council, governments are required to guarantee freedom of inquiry particularly as regards to “confidential and unsupervised contacts with persons deprived of their liberty”. The experts said they regretted that the Hungarian authorities have not respected those undertakings and as a result the Working Group was prevented from fulfilling its mandate.
“Unimpeded access to all places of deprivation of liberty including these transit zones must be guaranteed to independent international, regional and national organisations,” the experts said. “This is vital for the protection of the human rights in a country governed by rule of law.”
The Working Group said it hoped that the Government of Hungary would enter into a constructive dialogue to enable the delegates resume their visit in the near future and to work together to establish effective safeguards against the risk of arbitrary deprivation of liberty in Hungary.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established by the former Commission on Human Rights in 1991 to investigate instances of alleged arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Its mandate was clarified and extended by the Commission to cover the issue of administrative custody of asylum-seekers and immigrants. In September 2016, the Human Rights Council confirmed the scope of the Working Group's mandate and extended it for a further three-year period.
The Working Group is comprised of five independent expert members from various regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (the Republic of Korea); the Vice Chair-Rapporteurs are Ms. Elina Steinerte (Latvia; Vice-Chair on Communications) and Ms. Leigh Toomey (Australia; Vice-Chair on Follow-up). Other members include Mr. José Guevara (Mexico; Focal point on Reprisals) and Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin).
(*)See the Working Group’s 2013 report on its visit to Hungary (A/HRC/27/48/Add.4).
Check the Database of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights Country Page – Hungary
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