Again, the Banning of the Budapest Pride March Requires Legal Remedy

With the legal help of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Rainbow Mission Foundation challenges the banning order issued by the Budapest Chief of Police.

Similarly to previous years, on April 6th, 2012, the Budapest Chief of Police’s order refusing to grant permission for the Budapest Pride March was issued. The March had been announced in accordance with the law, with an expected attendance by 1500 people. The HCLU is slightly puzzled about the banning order and the reasoning behind it. Last year’s banning order for the 2011 Budapest Pride March, issued by the same police chief was overturned by the Capitol Court. On April 9th, with the legal assistance of the HCLU, organizers of the March once again submitted a re-examination request to the Capitol Court.

Arguements for re-examination:

- Traffic in Budapest can be secured through several alternative routes and different means of transportation. Accordingly, a number of demonstrations - some attracting tens of thousands of participants - have been held in various high-traffic locations since the Act on Assembly has come into effect in 1989.

- Similarly to last year and in contrast to decisions made in other cases, the police did not cite reasons for denial recognized by the Act on Assembly, namely that traffic can in no way be secured by re-routing. Instead, it cites reasons not covered by the Act, such as the disproportionate violation of others’ rights to free movement and the difficulties in securing an order in traffic and transportation. According to the police banning order, since there is no hierarchy among basic rights, it is up to the police to deliberate which basic right should prevail. However, this interpretation of the law is not only faulty, but it also goes against a previous Constitutional Court resolution.

- The basic right to communication, such as the right to assembly, is a highly protected Constitutional right.

- Regarding the police’s authority in deliberating which basic right is of more importance, Hungarian lawmakers have already decided on criteria, which allow for the restriction of the right to assembly. According to the Act on Assembly, the legal position is that the police do not have authority to decide whether to acknowledge an event, except in cases specified in the Act.

- The police banning order does not acknowledge the newest provisions of the Constitutional resolution, which states that restricting the right to assembly can only be warranted in case transportation and getting from point A to point B become impossible.

- Last year’s decision of the Capitol Court, which overturned the previous banning order of the police, interprets the law similarly.

- Accordingly, the police is only authorized to - and at the same time obligated to – objectively evaluate whether or not traffic and transportation can be resoluble during the demonstration and whether the uninterrupted operation of state institutions can be secured. Other than the above, the police have no authority to deliberate.

- The final assessment of the banning order states that public transportation and traffic will be affected in a disadvantageous way. It is not contested that traffic is high at the location of the demonstration and traffic jams will develop in neighboring streets. However, it is a fact that the practicing of the right to assembly does often involve high traffic routes, as it is a goal of demonstrations to bring attention to issues and to generate public debate.

In summary, the banning order does not meet criteria set by the Act on Assembly, nor does it meet requirements of equal treatment. The Capitol Court has 3 days to reach its decision.

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