Hungary in Spotlight: Standing Up Against Threats to Judicial Independence

Written by | Monday, May 7th, 2018

Europe’s strongman Viktor Orban has so far faced little meaningful blowback in Hungary or abroad in his eight-year time at the helm of the country. Yet, this week his politics has experienced a blow over Hungary’s judicial chief, Tünde Handó, accompanied by the condemnation from the European Union.

Ms. Hando was accused of ‘groundless’ interference in the way judges are hired and promoted. This was moreover coupled with the move of the European Commission to tie EU funding in the future with independence of their judiciaries and investigating corruption. In Hungary for most of the past decade, EU funds have accounted for about 4 percent of the country’s gross national product, one of the highest rates in the bloc.

Hungary’s National Judicial Council has recently published a report compiled by 15 judges on the autonomy of the Hungarian judiciary. In the analysis, the council said that Ms. Hando had abused her position by meddling in the hiring of senior judges. While judges are hired by an independent panel, Ms. Hando can reject its decisions and make her own appointments – the right that the council says she abused.

“In cases concerning the evaluation of senior judicial appointments,” the report read, Ms. Hando’s “reasoning was either insufficient or not transparent because it cited groundless reasons.” Ms. Hando’s critics say that she has been allowed to stack the judiciary with loyalists to Mr. Orban. But never before has the claim been leveled by an independent body with an institution such as the National Judicial Court. “For the first time since 2012” – when Ms. Hando was appointed – “a group of judges stood up to Tunde Hando for her unlawful practices,” said Viktor Vadasz, one of the council’s members.


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