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European Court rejects Hungarian law allowing domestic spying

Issues

The Hungarian government is not allowed to conduct surveillance of its citizens without a judge’s order, according to a European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruling that was announced yesterday and goes against a ruling by the Constitutional Court.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The European Court ruled in favor of two employees of the Károly Eötvös Institute who objected to Hungarian laws allowing secret surveillance and data collection by national security services without a judge’s warrant, state-owned news agency MTI reported yesterday. The ruling said that the Hungarian law breached the Human Rights Charter’s provisions on the right to privacy.

In a democracy, the authorities can only sidestep this right if national security or public safety is at stake or when a crime must be prevented or public morals or others’ freedoms must be safeguarded, the Strasbourg ruling said. The court ordered a compensation of €4,000 to be paid to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs organization appealed to Strasbourg after Hungary’s Constitutional Court rejected their petition in June 2012 asking for the annulment of a 2011 amendment of law-enforcement legislation. The amendment authorized the justice minister to permit secret surveillance of any individual by the TEK counter-terrorism force without court approval.

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