Hearing of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights at the Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly
The Judiciary Committee supported, with ten yes votes and two abstentions, that the National Assembly put the report on the activities of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights in 2016 on the agenda of its plenary meeting.
In his introduction, by way of an addition to the report, Ombudsman László Székely mentioned, among others, that in 2016, as many as 8,396 petitions were submitted to his Office, which was in harmony with the average number of complaints filed in the previous years and also, in line with the number of complaints filed to the commissioners of the Visegrád Four countries, in proportion to the population of these countries. Out of the complaints, 2,426 cases had to be investigated into. The inquiry reports of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights contained a total of 540 recommendations, of which a mere 41 were not accepted by the authorities and institutions that were addressed but, as it was later explained by László Székely, in response to a question asked by an MP, the majority of rejections were explained by budgetary reasons.
The Commissioner of Fundamental Rights said in summary that the need for fine tuning the rule of law is demonstrated by the citizens by turning to the Ombudsman, as is shown by practical experience.
The members of the Judiciary Committee were partly interested in or commented on, mostly in a highly positive tone, specific inquiries, and partly the activities pursued by László Székely and his two deputies, Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay and Deputy Commissioner for Future Generations Gyula Bándi. In addition to expressing the general acknowledgement of the work of the Ombudsman, a Member of Parliament made a comment in which he called the work of the National Preventive Mechanism operating in the Office of the Commissioner, which was established in order to fight torture and other inhuman and degrading activities, a spectacular achievement. The MP’s argued with each other rather than with the Commissioner on the reasons, options and consequences of turning to the Constitutional Court. The act governing the activities of the Ombudsman sets no deadlines for conducting the individual inquiries, exactly with a view to ensuring legal accuracy and unambiguity. It sometimes happens that the procedures are protracted, mainly because the authorities and institutions affected and addressed by the complaint in question fail to answer the questions asked by the Commissioner by the deadline that has been set for them, explained László Székely in relation to a specific complaint that was brought up at the hearing.
At the hearing, the recurring difficulties in the cooperation between the local governments and the national minority self-governments of the settlements were brought up by a question asked by an MP, in addition to the criticism of the legal regulation of the task-based support of the national minority self-governments. In relation to this, Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay informed the MP’s on her having monitored the possibilities for a professional cooperation between the community and the national minority self-governments and the potential issues related to such collaboration with particular attention since last year. Also, she is planning to launch a comprehensive inquiry this year. She mentioned that specific concerns related to task-based support were already voiced at the professional consultation held with the representatives of the national minorities and at the on-site visits too, and the inquiries into the statutory environment and the legal practices are in progress.