Statement of the Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy
September 15 was declared the International Day of Democracy by the UN General Assembly with a unanimous decision in November 2007. The fulfillment of the process of democratization and the unconditional respect for human rights should be the unquestioned and common values of all the UN member states. In Hungary, the National Assembly declared September 15 the International Day of Democracy in 2008.
In democratic states, guaranteeing human rights, including the unconditional respect for the right to human dignity, the freedom of speech and the freedom of press, or the freedom of assembly is of fundamental importance. As the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities, I find it important to stress that similarly to the classical fundamental rights, the fundamental rights of national minorities are also significant cornerstones of a democracy. When we talk about democracy and the protection of fundamental rights, we should also bear in mind that almost all of the fundamental rights have a special nationality law aspect: the violation of the right to human dignity can often be put down to the assumed or real nationality of the offended party, the right of national minorities to the use of their mother tongue, as well as the right to cultivate their national identities are closely related to the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, while the right to national minority education is the specific area where the fundamental right to education and culture guaranteed in the Fundamental Law of Hungary is enforced.
On this special day, we should also remember that in Act CLXXIX of 2011 on the Rights of Nationalities of Hungary, it is defined as a basic principle that each national minority has the right to exist and subsist as a national community. In order to guarantee this right, the communities of the national minorities also have cultural and political rights, for cultivating and preserving the culture and identity of the national minority, in addition to the individual nationality rights that the members of such communities are entitled to. The formation of national minority self-governments is an important form of the enforcement of the rights of national minorities, which makes it possible for these communities to collectively take part in democratic public life.
Thus, on the International Day of Democracy, we should not forget that it is an important measure of the level of a democracy in a nation what rights it guarantees to the disadvantaged groups of society or those which are in minority purely in terms of their number.
Dr. Elisabeth Sándor, Prof. HC
Professor, Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities