Over 100 judges cooperating with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee have turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to challenge a provision of the new basic law that would force them to take early retirement at age 62. They say the provision, which must be applied by the end of this year, violates the European Convention on Human Rights by compelling them to retire before the current age limit of 70.
Almost 280 judges, including members of the Supreme Court, are affected. The provision regarding their retirement age has already fallen foul of the European Commission, which believes it contradicts EU anti-discrimination law. But there are also concerns that the independence of the judiciary could come under threat if the positions are filled by political appointees. The government has strengthened the position of the president of the newly created National Judicial Office, currently long-term Fidesz supporter Tünde Handó, by including the power to name all judges.
Compulsory retirement at age 62 will be introduced in all spheres of public service, government spokesman András Giró-Szász said on Tuesday, despite earlier assurances by education state secretary Rózsa Hoffmann that the provision will not apply to teachers. Health state secretary Miklós Szócska warned earlier that staff shortages make it inconceivable that all medical personnel be forced to retire at 62.
Giró-Szász said forced retirement will occur in one or two steps depending on the area. There are currently over 30,000 public sector employees aged 62 or above.