Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) has been informed with revelation that Gatter László, the head of the Metropolitan Court of Budapest, denounced certain leaders of the Communist Party (Munkáspárt) for slander, since one of the court’s sentence, delivered in connection with an internal debate of the Labour Party, was called “political” by the Party’s web site.
Freedom of criticism and expressing opinion is one of the milestones that define an open society. It is particularly important in an open, democratic society to let citizens express their opinion about the activity of public power establishments without fear and danger of penalty. The No. 30/1992. statement of the Constitutional Court shares this approach as well.
It is a definite viewpoint of HCLU that citizens should be allowed to form their opinion freely, even if that is without base, on the decision carried out by any public power organization, thus also about judicial sentences, and to assess those. HCLU requires self-discipline in expressing opinion on the judicial sentences only from public people of other public power fields – such as members of parliament and governmental functionaries.
HCLU supposes that the bench’s respect would be guaranteed if high-positioned judges were not involved in everyday political debates and if they could welcome the criticism regarding the activity of the court with some liberality. It is rather saddening that it is the court itself - keeping the political rights of freedom impartially, based on its constitutional function - which reaches out, through its leaders, to devices of penal statues in order to press down criticism.
HCLU finds it especially worrying that lately some public power organizations and public people have constantly tried to block freedom of expression of opinion – by hiding behind their positive reputation. HCLU requires from Gatter László to withdraw his denunciation and at the same time it offers free legal help for the denounced leaders of Communist Party.
dr. Dénes Balázs
Executive Director of HCLU