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PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR NATIONAL AND ETHNIC MINORITY RIGHTS
HUNGARY

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Background
Mandate

CONTACT

Background 

In 1995, the Hungarian Parliament elected the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights, who is exclusively responsible to Parliament, in order to safeguard the protection of national and ethnic minority rights.

The Commissioner is, in effect, a parliamentary Ombudsman, independent of both the executive and judicial power. The Commissioner is appointed by the Hungarian Parliament and reports to Parliament. The institution’s independence from executive power is undoubtedly in line with the three conditions specified in ECRI’s General Policy Recommendation No. 2: The Commissioner is independent in terms of budget; performs tasks without state intervention, i.e. enjoys autonomy in terms of the appointment of employees, the management of resources and in forming opinions; and finally has personal autonomy because the Act on the Parliamentary Commissioner contains guarantees with respect to the appointment and withdrawal of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s institution assumes an important role in the formulation of anti-discrimination policies in Hungary. The Ombudsman actively participates in the assessment of the implementation of anti-discrimination measures as well as in the continued development and transformation of the legal framework. All of the official assessments, audits and investigations of the Ombudsman are completed by the institution’s formulation of various recommendations and proposals to the relevant ministries concerning the modernisation of the legal framework. Most of the recommendations concerning the continued development of the legal framework have been formulated in relation to the investigation of concrete complaints.

Finally, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Minorities participates in both the legislative and the political decision making processes. His opinion is sought for in relation to each new act or amendment that has an influence on his institution or in respect of all issues falling within his institution’s mandate, including, amongst other things, anti-discrimination regulations and legislation.

Mandate 

1. Scope

According to the law, the Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minority Rights functions along the lines of the traditional Ombudsman institution in that it is only mandated to conduct investigations concerning the public sector.

The institution aims to resolve this recognised shortcoming by indirect action, as follows. The State is in charge of licensing private enterprises, enforcing contracts and supervising the legality of a number of operations, most of which are private-sector activities carried out in the public sector. In such an indirect way the Ombudsman’s authority may be extended to cover human rights violations that are committed in certain areas of the private sector.

One of the main areas where manifestations of racial discrimination are identified is private enterprise, i.e. the business sector. Through their employment and recruitment policies and the selection of customers, private enterprises may discriminate against members of disadvantaged ethnic groups. Certain indirect measures to combat discrimination may be taken in the areas of employment and services offered in the private sector.

2. Functions

a. Political decision making and legislative functions

The Ombudsman for Minorities takes a broad interpretation of the legislative and political decision making functions provided for by law. He reviews relevant laws and other legal regulations on a regular basis. This comprehensive analysis is concluded by the elaboration of recommendations concerning amendments to the laws in effect, along with the drafting of proposals concerning new laws and amendments. In the analysis of concrete complaints the recommendations are sometimes focused on the modification of local decrees only, but even in such cases the Ombudsman’s office often makes recommendations to the relevant ministries concerning the review of national-level legal regulations, particularly in cases where problems occur repeatedly or in cases raising problems of institutional discrimination.

A certain practice has evolved during recent years in the preparation of drafts of new acts of law, whereby Ministries ask for comments by the Ombudsman during the process of the preparation of laws.

b. Enforcement

The Commissioner also carries out the execution of anti-discrimination regulations. As regards concrete cases, complaints may be submitted by victims, any non-governmental organisation or any other organisation. The Office has launched investigations into many cases on the basis of news published by the media. The procedure of submitting complaints is highly informal: the complainant may submit his/her complaint in writing or orally, in which case an Office employee will draft the request. Complaints may also be made to the office by telephone. The Ombudsman carries out on the spot investigations, visiting institutions against which complaints have been submitted and interviewing eye witnesses and others involved in the case.

One major advantage of the institution is the possibility of carrying out onsite investigations. This enables a thorough analysis of the cases and the collection of the largest amount of information concerning the issues in hand. Investigations carried out at the scenes of incidents of discrimination have always proven to be highly useful.

In order to investigate cases of discrimination, the Commissioner can use the following techniques:

In the area of strategic powers the Ombudsman also has complete competence. In certain concrete cases he can initiate investigations ex officio, in a way where there is no need for the victim to file a complaint. In order to promote the implementation of strategic goals a number of more general official investigations have also been carried out.

c. Information, education and awareness- raising

The third group of functions of the institution of the Ombudsman for Minorities are information and educational activities. The Ombudsman’s mandate concerning information includes, in accordance with the ECRI recommendation, the provision of information and consultative support for the bodies and institutions concerned. The Ombudman’s office can provide consultative support in the following areas:

The Office has so far published a manual in order to promote cooperation between minority self-governments and local governments concerning the legal frameworks of their operations, including descriptions of concrete relevant cases. The Ombudsman delivers presentations on a regular basis and he contributes to conferences, consultations and discussions across the country. The institution has participated in the preparation and implementation of various specialised training courses for - inter alia - members of minority self-governments, mayors and local civil servants.

The institution also carries out its educational and training function in an indirect way, by developing recommendations for various authorities, using persuasion to solve problems and preparing and submitting annual reports to Parliament.

CONTACT 

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities
a nemzeti és etnikai kisebbségi jogok országgyűlési biztosa
Nádor u. 22
H-1051 BUDAPEST
Tel.: +36 1 475 7149
Fax: +36 1 269 3542
E-mail: nekjob@obh.hu
Web site: www.obh.hu/nekh/en/index.htm