(New York) - The Budapest Metropolitan Court's decision on February 18, 2011, to allow an extended route for a gay pride march was an important victory for freedom of assembly in Hungary, Human Rights Watch said today. The Budapest police had denied permission to extend the route for the march, planned for June 18.
"The court's decision was a victory not only for the community of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, but for the right of all Hungarians to freedom of assembly," said Boris Dittrich, acting director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch.
The Metropolitan Court of Budapest overturned the February 11 decision of the Budapest police to deny an application by Rainbow Mission Foundation, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organization, to extend the route of the 2011 Budapest Gay Pride March to the parliament building.
Rainbow Mission Foundation made a formal request to the police in September 2010 to hold the gay pride march in June 2011. Because the police did not deny the request within two days, it was automatically approved under national law. In February, the organizers of the event decided to extend the route to end at Parliament Square, but the police denied their request. The court refuted the police claims that the extended route of the march would unduly obstruct traffic.
In 2008, the police had denied a permit for a gay pride march on similar grounds but withdrew its objections following a letter from 15 LGBT organizations and the rejection by Gábor Demszky, the Budapest mayor at that time, of the claim that the parade would unduly obstruct traffic. Approximately 450 lesbians, gays, and supporters gathered in the city center for the event.
During the march, though, several LGBT people were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and crowds of counter-demonstrators threw explosive devices, eggs, cobblestones, and bottles at the participants. As a result 10 people were injured and 45 detained.
The right to the freedom of assembly is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In Bączkowski and Others v Poland in 2005 and Alekseyev v. Russia in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that banning a LGBT pride parade violated the right to freedom of assembly and association.
On March 31, 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a set of recommendations (CM/Rec (2010), 5 addressed to member states, including Hungary, on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The recommendations are minimum standards. Relevant articles are:
Article 14. Member states should take appropriate measures at national, regional and local levels to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Convention, can be effectively enjoyed, without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Article 15. Member states should ensure that law enforcement authorities take appropriate measures to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations in favor of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons from any attempts to unlawfully disrupt or inhibit the effective enjoyment of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Article 16. Member states should take appropriate measures to prevent restrictions on the effective enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly resulting from the abuse of legal or administrative provisions, for example on grounds of public health, public morality and public order.
"Instead of trying to obstruct the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression, the police authorities should fulfill their obligation to protect the demonstrators," Dittrich said. "The court has done the right thing. The police should follow suit."