The Parliamentary resolution that came into effect on June 7th brought about this ad hoc Committee, which held its first substantive meeting at the end of September. On this day, the HCLU brought to public attention its shadow report of the events and documentary, whose goal was – by reacting to the content of the legislation, which is reminiscent of the documents of the show trials in the 50s – to accurately document the occurrences.
Thus far, the Committee has questioned leaders of the secret service, heads of the police, including József Hatala, the Police Superintendent of Hungary, and Zoltán Balog, Secretary of State in charge of social improvement. The vice mayor of Gyöngyöspata and János Farkas, who is the Head of the Ethnic Minority Government in Gyöngyöspata, also made an appearance.
The tone of the Committee’s meeting on Wednesday differed from earlier ones. The usual disinterest was gone, and the room was packed. But it was not full of journalists, who wanted to hear the accounts of the HCLU, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Amnesty International and the Red Cross. First, the uniformed young man from the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future caught one’s eye. However, knowledge of the Jobbik politician, Ádám Mirkóczki’s suggestion to change the agenda clarified the reason for the young man’s presence. He suggested that the Committee question the representative from his party, namely Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, the “committed legal aid.” Máté Kocsis, the Head of the Committee, who is also the Mayor of Józsefváros, and was recently named the official in charge of homeless issues for Fidesz, allowed him to speak, referencing parliamentary law. At this point, those who had gathered for this meeting, but had not attended previous ones, started to draw attention to themselves. These were Gaudi’s fellow Jobbik members, who were continuously commenting, often atrociously.
András Kádár, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, began the civil accounts and qualified the actions of the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future and Jobbik in Gyöngyöspata as conscious agitation of ethnic tensions, against which the police should have clearly taken steps, but did not. According to the legal aid, it is obvious that the Romas’ fear was valid. This point is strengthened by the fact that atrocities happened in the settlements even when the police was present. He too noted that the Committee is wrongly not examining the responsibility of the police and administration.
Similarly, Eszter Jovánovics emphasized that the police, regardless of being urged multiple times by nonprofits, did not take steps at the right time to prevent the serious breaching of rights. This issue only appeared in the communications of the administration a great deal after the occurrences. She also emphasized that three extremist, anti-Roma organizations were responsible for this political action. Of these organizations, the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future is closely tied to Jobbik. “The comment that Tamás Gaudi-Nagy just made is proof of this. I do not wish to further comment on this.”
Director Orsolya Jeney, representing Amnesty International, disapproved of Hungary’s reaction to hate crimes, which the organization already explicated in their report last year. There isn’t proper guidance for the exercising of rights, they didn’t develop proper protocols for the practice of the laws, and they didn’t establish specific advisory panels to deal with these crimes, she criticized. The expression of her views caused ruckus of the sort that is not appropriate for a Parliamentary meeting, which clearly shows that even the legislators don’t quite understand the content of her position. And this justifies the position of the legal aid organizations that were present. They have been asserting in every possible forum, for quite some time now, the importance of establishing investigation protocol for hate crimes, and proper training for those implementing laws is.
According to the resolution of the Parliamentary meeting, one of the tasks of the committee is “determining who falsely claimed that the action organized by the Red Cross for quite some time was really an evacuation of Roma from Gyöngyöspata, and what the reason and goal of this arousal of panic was.”
Péter Juhász, a field worker of the HCLU’s Roma Program, who went to Gyöngyöspata several times a week during Spring, said that the resolution is falsely claiming that the Red Cross has been organizing the evacuation of Roma women and children. Erik Selymes, the Director of the Red Cross, corroborated his point in saying that three days before their trip, they sent out the offer and already the next day, they received an order for the trip, from Tiszaliget and Csillebérc. Selymes explained his dilemma, with which he occupied himself for 2-3 weeks. He had two options. Either he gives in to the dozens of requests from Roma to move out, since they could not do so from their own money, or he decides to wait and go down to Gyöngyöspata with Red Cross later on, and provide for the wounded and care for the mothers under shock. “It’s like a scene after a battle,” as he described it. At the same time, Selymes has distanced himself from Richard Field, who, for several years now, together with the Red Cross, has donated million of Hungarian forints to help people living in poverty.
Máté Kocsis expressed his concern several times, that with Hungary next in line to be the President of the EU, news spread about their Committee could cause incalculable damage. Péter Juhász and András Kádár also reminded the Committee of the task of legal aids. They both talked about the fact that criticism of those in power is a natural part of the proper functioning of a constitutional state. This does not mean disgracing the country in public opinion, as the resolution says, rather composing a criticism of the current administration.
When examining Richard Field’s role, Péter Juhász presented the American businessman’s humanitarian efforts in Hungary. These include establishing a sowing program for people living in deep poverty, a program for feeding children, and also running homeless shelters. “This last one is clearly known to and especially important for Mr. President, Máté Kocsis,” Péter Juhász remarked, to which the president of the Committee called for order and asked him to return to the agenda. Later, Máté Kocsis objected several times to wording he deemed to be preachy and advised the legal aid to be humble.
On the other hand, call for order did not occur when the “choir” of Jobbik supporters in the audience did not react favorably to something and started loudly ranting and even threatening one of the legal aids directly. The attitude and behavior of Jobbik is not a surprise, but what does bring up questions, is how the spar of the previous meeting between Fidesz and Jobbik transformed into open understanding in the presence of the legal aids. By putting themselves at the hands of Jobbik, the governing party also gave the impression of being prejudiced and once again delegated a task that is fundamentally the state’s, to civilians. The task, that is, to stand up for the attacked minority and speak out against racism.
Melinda Zsolt, HCLU