Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Since its inception in 1994, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) (Hungarian: Társaság a Szabadságjogokért, and its acronym TASZ) is a leading non-governmental organization in the field of human rights and harm reduction advocacy in Hungary. Patterned on the successful model of the American Civil Liberties Union's work in the United States, HCLU provides legal aid and advocacy for vulnerable populations, such as drug users, psychiatric patients, and people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as providing public information on related issues. In 2016, HCLU provided legal counsel and representation in 118 unique cases.
On 11 January 2017, Szilárd Németh, vice-president of the ruling FIDESZ party named HCLU as one of the three key civil organizations (alongside Transparency International and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee) that need to be restricted in Hungary. On 2 April 2017, the government submitted an amendment intending to oblige civil organisations receiving over HUF 7.2 million (about USD 25 000) annual subsidies from abroad to register. On 12 April 2017, tens of thousands protested against the proposed legislation on Budapest's Heroes Square.
The HCLU’s main objective is to ensure the protection of fundamental rights and principles in Hungary. Its activities are focusing on fields where infringements are frequent, and victims are in particularly vulnerable positions. HCLU aims to protect the principle of personal liberty, human dignity and privacy. Its declared ambition is that the state would restrict fundamental rights only with especially serious reasons, only to the extent that is considered absolutely necessary and solely based on law, while ensuring required procedural guarantees.
HCLU focuses on:
- its Drug Policy Program;
- Freedom of information and the right to informational privacy;
- Access to public data;
- Patients' rights, including work with HIV/AIDS patients;
- Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly; and
- Right to self-determination, including abortion and euthanasia.
- Rights of the Roma population against institutional discrimination;
- Rights of disabled people
- provides free legal counsel to citizens whose fundamental rights have been violated
- grants free legal representation in strategically significant cases
- initiates legislative proposals, the modification of legislation and changes to enforcement provisions
- highlights the importance of human rights considerations during the preparation of legislation
- cooperates with a number of Hungarian and international human rights organizations and institutions
Informing the public
- holds trainings aiming to facilitate legal awareness
- prepares informational materials
- regularly informs the media about its position
- provides information about its activities on its website, blog and on various social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), and newsletter
- organises debates and conferences
Patients’ Rights Programme The Patients’ Rights Programme deals with patients’ rights guaranteed by the Act on Health Care and with other general patients’ rights issues. This program pays special attention to issues related to people’s right to make informed decisions about themselves, such as reproductive freedoms (abortion, contraception, artificial insemination, surrogacy, oocyte donation, home birth, etc.), the right to refuse treatment, euthanasia, and the rights of the intellectually disabled.
HIV/AIDS Programme The HIV/AIDS Programme deals with the legal aspects of the issue, the Hungarian and EU strategies, and the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. We regularly monitor the treatment and care provided to HIV patiens and the HIV testing practices in Hungary, and publish reports and studies on the subject. The HCLU’S HIV/AIDS Programme and its supervisor are members of a number of HIV/AIDS-related international organizations.
Freedom of Expression Programme The program aims to protect the right of assembly, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of the press. Currently HCLU is the only organization providing free legal counsel and representation for journalists.
Freedom of Information Programme HCLU is the most active advocate of the freedom of information among civil organizations in Hungary. Its trials contribute to the case law practiced by judges and courts.
Data Protection Programme The goal of the Data Protection Programme is to allow the state and the business sector to handle data on citizens only if it is indispensable for their efficient operation, and to guarantee that people can decide what information they share about themselves.
Drug Policy Programme The program provides legal counsel for doctors, social workers and professionals dedicated to needle exchange programmes. The program also monitors all media coverage on the topic.
Roma Rights Advocacy Institutional discrimination, primarily in the field of the criminal and administrative justice system is in the focus of the Roma Program. The Program's aim is to have a positive impact on the law enforcement and administrative authorities as well as on the judiciary. In addition, it is HCLU’s objective to have a positive effect on the legislation: to reverse the process of criminalization of poverty and thereby that of the Roma people. The Program also strives to take a stand against prejudice and discrimination by shaping opinion through various communication activities.
HCLU Film The HCLU has launched its video advocacy programme called HCLU Film in 2007. It has produced more than 500 films since, mostly in the field of drug policy, but we are making more and more films in other fields of HCLU's work.
Programme furthering civil society The programme intends to form strategic partnerships enabling HCLU to share its experiences with other (local and regional) civil organizations.
Disability rights programme The disability rights programme focuses on assisting mentally challenged and severely handicapped people. The aim of the program is to help them to live their life as an equal citizen and as a recognized member of their community. The most important goal is to eliminate totalitarian mass institutions and, in parallel, to develop programs in the community that promote integration; to reform the guardian system, that is, to advocate supported decision-making; to fight legislation that attempts to restrict the voting rights and to promote the right to education for children with mental disabilities.
Freedom of Assembly The program covers the freedom of organizing and holding demonstrations, protests and how the state and the police can ensure this fundamental freedom. HCLU provides legal counsal to all citizens wishing to practice the freedom of assembly.
Rule of Law Programme HCLU’s Political Liberties Program follows and analyzes events related to constitutional processes, cardinal law and the independence of institutions.
Political Participatory Rights Programme The objective of the program is to advocate with legislators for the safeguards of a free, universal, equal and secret suffrage, and to enforce these safeguards - especially those pertaining to the transparency of election procedures - in the implementation of laws. Another objective of the program is to promote the free, informed and effective exercising of rights in the electoral process by informing the electorate and organizing training workshops, especially in the circle of young people aged 18–25.
Right to Self-Determination Programme The program intends to prepare citizens to various situations: homelessness, reproduction rights, euthanasia, preventive vaccinations among others.
HCLU is a member of IFEX, taking part in defending and promoting the freedom of expression globally.
HCLU cooperates with the following organizations:
- AIDS Action Europe
- Big Brother Awards International
- Eurasian Harm Reduction Network
- European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies
- Freedom of information advocates network
- Global Internet Liberty Campaign
- International Antiprohibitionist League
- "Hungarian Civil Liberties Union". Center for Civil Society International. July 1999. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- "Annual Report 2016". HCLU's website. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Zoltan, Simon (10 January 2017). "Hungary plans to crack down on all Soros-funded NGOs". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Buldioski, Goran (22 March 2017). "Hungary's Opaque Aims at Civil Society". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Pablo, Gorondi (12 April 2017). "Tens of thousands protest Hungary's education, NGO policies". Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- "The never ending data retention" 22 June 2015
- "Supreme Court:The police discriminated against the Roma of Gyöngyöspata" 17 February 2017
- "Closing down six institutions: Slowly, Hungarian disability policies are changing" 19 July 2016