The building of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg – Photo: wikipedia

CoE urges Hungary to align law on secret surveillance with ECHR

The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers issued an interim resolution on Friday calling on Hungary to adopt without delay measures required to bring domestic legislation on secret surveillance for national security purposes fully and effectively in line with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Strasbourg-based body comprising 46 members said that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had found violations of the applicants’ right to respect for their private and family life and for their correspondence on account of the Hungarian legislation on secret surveillance measures.

It reiterated that secret surveillance should be regarded as a “highly intrusive act” that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society, the statement showed.

The committee of ministers said it was the legal obligation of every state to abide by final judgments of the ECtHR “in any case to which they are a party, fully, effectively, and promptly and thus called on the authorities to address the ‘entirety of the shortcomings’ identified by the court”.

“The Committee also noted with interest information received from the authorities in October 2022 that the required legislative process was under preparation, but it expressed ‘deepest concern’ that — almost seven years after the Court’s judgment in the Szabo and Vissy case became final, and despite the authorities having confirmed the need for a legislative reform already in 2017 and notwithstanding the Committee’s repeated calls in this respect — the authorities had provided no written information,” the statement said.

Beatrix Vissy and Mate Szabo had contacted the court with a complaint concerning Hungary’s counter-terrorism centre TEK being allowed to carry out secret surveillance without a court order.

The ECtHR encouraged the authorities “to make full use of the expertise available from the Council of Europe and to co-operate closely with the organisation to ensure that the legislative reform is fully Convention-compliant, the Committee invited the authorities to submit an updated action plan, including information on all the above issues, by 30 September 2023 at the latest, and decided to resume consideration of this case, in the light of the information received, at its meeting in June 2024 at the latest”.

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