The HCLU has long warned that the secret services have
essentially unlimited powers of surveillance in Hungary: instead of an
independent body, a minister authorises the collection of information
and decides whether surveillance is lawful. There is no external control
at the later stages of surveillance or after it has ended, and targeted
individuals have no means to know if their data has been unlawfully
collected and therefore have no access to legal remedies either.
The Pegasus case has shown that this is not a theoretical
problem, but that violations do in fact take place, of which the public
only found out through the press. Traces of the Pegasus spyware, which
can only be bought by states, were found on the phones of several
Hungarian targets, who obviously do not pose any risk to national
security, but who have been a source of annoyance to the government.
The HCLU is using all possible legal means to enforce the
rights of those illegally monitored and is taking the case of secret
surveillance regulation that violates fundamental rights before
Hungarian and international bodies. On behalf of journalists Brigitta
Csikász, Dávid Dercsényi, Dániel Németh and Szabolcs Panyi, as well as
student activist Adrien Beauduin and a sixth person who requested
anonymity, the organisation is first pursuing the legal remedies offered
by the National Security Act. It has lodged complaints with the
ministers overseeing the secret services and will initiate an
investigation by the National Security Committee of Parliament and the
Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. Besides these, the HCLU has lodged
so-called subject access requests with the secret services to gain
information on possible data processing and will take legal action
before the courts and the National Authority for Data Protection and
Freedom of Information, depending on the answers.
As the abuses have several international implications - the spyware
was produced by an Israeli company and an EU citizen living in Hungary
was also targeted - the HCLU is also launching proceedings at the
international level. It is initiating an investigation by the Israeli
Attorney General in the cases of Szabolcs Panyi, Adrien Beauduin and a
third client who was also found to have been surveilled. In this
procedure the organisation is cooperating with Eitay Mack, an
independent lawyer fighting against Israeli arms exports to autocracies.
The aim of the investigation is to find out how the cyberweapon could
have been authorised for export from Israel to a country that does not
properly regulate secret surveillance, based on international rule of
law reports and rulings of the ECtHR.
According to the HCLU, the surveillance of Belgian student
activist Adrien Beauduin, who was studying in Hungary at the time of his
surveillance, is a violation of EU law, namely the right to free
movement of persons and workers. The lack of oversight mechanisms
concerning secret services in Hungary in comparison to other EU
countries, may discourage EU citizens from staying in Hungary, which is a
breach of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The
organisation has therefore filed a complaint with the European
Judging from the cases that have surfaced in the press so
far, the surveillance is politically motivated. For years, a recurring
element of government communication has been to portray those who
criticise the government's actions as foreign agents or a threat to
national security. The HCLU, together with human rights lawyer Balázs
Tóth, is therefore also launching a multitude of lawsuits before the
European Court of Human Rights on behalf of journalists and members of
CSOs stigmatised by the government, as they are ostensibly highly
exposed to surveillance.
"The use of the secret services to serve those in power
rather than the nation as a whole is appallingly familiar in Central and
Eastern Europe. It is unacceptable that the operations of the national
security services, which are necessarily carried out in secret, should
become a tool of oppression rather than a means of protecting citizens,"
said Ádám Remport, a TASZ expert on surveillance issues.
Legal representation in the proceedings is provided by lawyers Tivadar Hüttl, Flóra Kollarics and Kata Nehéz-Posony.