Expelling dissent: On account of the ECtHR judgment in Baka v Hungary

von Renáta Uitz

The European courts have been rather active in finding Hungary in violation of European constitutional and human rights minimum standards in April and in May 2014. In the most recent judgment in this line of cases, Baka v Hungary, the ECtHR found that the last chief justice of the Hungarian Supreme Court, András Baka, had been removed from office through constitution-making before the end of his term due to his criticism of the government’s judicial reforms. In the word of the ECtHR the

facts and the sequence of events in their entirety corroborate the applicant’s version of events, namely that the early termination of his mandate as President of the Supreme Court was not the result of a justified restructuring of the supreme judicial authority in Hungary, but in fact was set up on account of the views and criticisms that he had publicly expressed in his professional capacity on the legislative reforms concerned (para 96, emphasis added).

Indeed, the Baka case is symptomatic of a fundamental shortcoming of Hungary’s new constitutional reality: the suppression and expulsion of dissent from the domestic political sphere. Sadly, the timing of the ECtHR’s judgment is perfect, as it comes at a time when the government is taking intense legal steps and other measures silence dissenting voices even further.

The removal of András Baka from his position as the last chief justice of the Supreme Court is a fine case study in context-sensitive constitutional engineering. Hungary’s new Fundamental Law renamed the Supreme Court to its historic name, Kúria ...

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