Under the guise of observations "in service of the residents”, uniformed men terrorize children and harass adults based on their ethnicity or national status in Magyarbánhegyes. According to this, it seems as if police did not defend locals against persecution. (The Civil Guard Association for a Better Future with other extremist anti-Roma groups – pretending to be militiamen and vindicating the right to maintain public order – have started a systematic campaign of intimidation against the Roma for weeks in Gyöngyöspata, Hungary in April 2011. They illegally patrolled the village and provoked the Roma adults and children.The HCLU published its Shadow Report and a documentary video about the events. The summary of the Shadow Report can be foundhere.
In autumn, locals of Magyarbánhegyes stated in front of the HCLU’s cameras that even their children suffer from the presence of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future (a.k.a SZJPE). A member of the local organisation of the SZJPE told two children of Roma origin: "let’s imagine that you didn’t have a father.”. Members of the same Association tried to pull a little boy from the hands of a Roma man in his own house. Local Roma people complain that members of the SZJPE often stop them in the street. According to Norbert Vajda, leader of the Association in Magyarbánhegyes, they do nothing, but follow gypsies and stop only those who committed crime according to citizens’ right.
You can turn on the English subtitles by starting the video and then clicking on the "cc" button
The local organisation of the SZJPE was founded after a murder on 28 March 2011. They have picked on the family of the local minority leader. This was inexplicable even being aware of their racist logic, since the crime was committed by a non-Roma and non-local person: Mihály V. was sentenced to a 10-year imprisonment by the Tribunal of Szeged. Edina Benkő, daughter of the victim declared that she was really sorry that the situation between Roma people and the SZJPE has degenerated in Magyarbánhegyes. "They want to connect this with the death of my father; however the whole thing has nothing to do with it.” We interviewed both Roma and non-Roma locals and they all agreed that there’s no problem with the public safety in their settlement. One of them proudly showed bicycles standing in the street unlocked. More interviewees – both Roma and non-Roma people - told us in our video, that people belonging either to the majority or the minority live in peace in Magyarbánhegyes.
Contrarily, according to the local leader of the SZJPE: let’s make it clear that the biggest problem is the Roma issue”. Therefore they keep on pursuing their activities even after its proscription, by taking advantage of legal loopholes. For example, they removed the „civil guard” title from their uniform and they started to call their actions observation instead of patrol. Their leaders, however, acknowledged right in front of our cameras that they do exactly the same as they did earlier when the law did not sanction unlawful public safety activities.
The name of the SZJPE became known throughout the country in the course of the anti-gipsy “patrolling” in Gyöngyöspata. Since then they have been regular organisers, and their members have become regular participants in extreme right-wing, anti-gipsy demonstrations. In our video we use footage from the patrols in Gyöngyöspata, and the demonstrations of Jobbik in Devecser and Miskolc to present the ideology of the SZJPE.
A brand new crime was implemented into the Hungarian Criminal Code (section 217) in order to prevent such events as happened in Gyöngyöspata in 2010. According to this:
a) the one, who organises such activity that is aimed at maintaining public security or public order unlawfully or
b) the one, who organises an activity that appears as the maintenance of public security or public order, commits an offense that can be sentenced with 2 years of imprisonment.
Furthermore, the person who pursues unlawful public security activity, commits a minor offense. The new offense’s state of facts had also been implemented as a result of the Gyöngyöspata events, from 23 April 2011. We provided plenty of information in our Gyöngyöspata shadow report about an obvious intertwining of the SZJPE and with other extreme organisations (such as the New Hungarian Guard and the Jobbik).
The below flyer (has been spread in Magyarbánhegyes) is more proof of this phenomenon:
Association For a Better Future and Jobbik in the service of the residents
We would like to draw the attention of the inhabitants of Magyarbánhegyes, that here’s the opportunity to ask for help!
If you are affected by „CERTAIN” locals or strangers, who harass and threaten
offer their help violently ask you to let them enter your house because of various reasons urge you to enter into a subsistence agreement with them want to drive you into dodgy businesses; or you are afraid of theft in your field land or house or IF YOU SEE ANY OF THESE ELSEWHERE, CALL US! We use your personal data discreetly! WE ARE OBSERVING! WE HELP YOU!
South-Békés leader of For a Better Future Hungarian Self-defense Association
president of the Jobbik Magyarországért (For a Better Hungary) Movement in Magyarbánhegyes
According to section 127.§ (3) of the Hungarian Minor Offence Law anyone can capture another person in the case of an "in flagrant delict", but they are obliged to hand over the person to the authorities with no delay; if this is not possible, the police should be immediately informed (this is the rule that SZJPE leader in Magyarbánhegyes mentions in our video as a legitimating of their activity, as a citizen’s right). It is extremely important to point out that this law can be applied only to people who are caught committing a criminal act. In flagrant delict means that someone is found at fault, while he/she is committing a crime. The only reason why we are defining this in so much detail is that unfortunately, in some cases not only pseudo-civil guards but even the court misinterprets this cited rule.
Lajos Csurár, president of the local Roma Minority Self-government, turned to the HCLU for the first time, when the case mentioned in the video occurred; namely, when local SZJPE members stopped him while he and others were traveling on a horse-drawn carriage transporting timber. It is not difficult to find out whether this is considered as an "in flagrant delict" or not. Just because people with prejudice suppose that if a gipsy man has timber he must have stolen it, the above-mentioned case won’t be considered as "in flagrant delict"; so civilians can’t intercept lawfully anyone who sits in a horse-drawn carriage.
The police were however a partner of the SZJPE as it initiated a procedure in a case against the Csurárs with the suspicion of theft. This was dismissed later, because it was established that the vice-mayor had given them permission to take away the timber. Lajos Csurár filed a report against the SZJPE for pursuing unlawful public security activity, but unfortunately the Battonya City Court misinterpreted the law; they terminated the procedure by relying on the above cited provision - applicable only to "in flagrant delicts" - and there was no opportunity for remedy. Prior to and after this case, local members of the SZJPE harassed the Csurár family and others, as it can be seen in our video.
As it is known, the Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit in order to dissolve the SZJPE because of the past events in Gyöngyöspata. The legal procedure was carried out by the City Court of Gyula, which announced its first-instance decision on the 25 July 2012. The court didn’t find it reasonable to dissolve the Association. The first trial of the second-instance procedure will be held on 25 March 2012 at the Tribunal of Szeged.
It is a very important issue whether the court will decide on the dissolution of the Association in the ongoing civil suit. Besides this, the criminal liability of those, who as SZJPE members organise or do "observing” activity in certain settlements, just like in Magyarbánhegyes, must be investigated. Thus the HCLU helps the affected locals to file a report.
As far as we know, the rules that sanction unlawful public security activity were applied by the police for the first time on 30 November 2012 in Miskolc against the members of the SZJPE.
Eszter Jovánovics, Head of the Roma program and Szilárd Teczár, Volunteer of the HCLU
The aim of the Prize is to acknowledge television and online video works aimed at highlighting the problems of marginalised groups, and raising public and media awareness. It is a big honour for us to be awarded this prize in 2013.
How might the authorities use and abuse the law to harass somebody? Imposing fines for minor offences is an easy way. Especially, if the person involved is underprivileged, therefore has little capability to enforce his rights.
The 2012 budget for the public works program is 140-150 billion forints. Earlier we spoke with Vera Messing, researcher for both the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Institute for Sociology and Central European University, regarding the specifics and effects of the public works program.