a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 08-02-1995 / e) 1/1995 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 10/1995 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
Constitutional Justice - Effects - Temporal effect - Postponement of temporal effect.
Fundamental Rights - Equality.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Individual liberty - Deprivation of liberty.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Human dignity / Compensation, past injustice.
The Constitution requires that, when regulating the question of compensation for those wrongfully deprived of their life and liberty for political reasons, the law should specify the group of persons entitled to such compensation, respecting the equal dignity of each person.
Act 32 of 1992 regulated the question of compensation for those wrongfully deprived of their life and liberty due to political reasons. Several petitioners challenged the law, especially because they claimed that the law specified in an arbitrary and discriminatory way those who were entitled to compensation.
The present case differed from all previous compensation cases introduced before the Court because it did not concern compensation for property losses or material damage, but compensation for personal injury. The issue was complicated further because the violations in question occurred under different political regimes. On a very broad generalisation, one previous regime perpetrated these violations on the ground of racism and nationalism, while the next regime followed mostly ideological and political motives. A further difficulty lies in the question how deprivation of life and liberty could be measured in money.
The Constitutional Court declared that this type of compensation is not based on a legal obligation emanating from the time before the transition; the Government compensates according to equity, thus nobody has a subjective right to compensation. Therefore, the Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of the general principles of the compensation process, including the fact that the legislature passes different compensation laws periodically. However, the Court revealed an omission on the part of the government and the legislature. The law provided for an additional legislative act that would cover those persons who did not fall under the previous law, and this obliged the government to present the draft as early as in 1992. The government did not comply with this obligation, thus creating an unconstitutional discrimination to the detriment of those who did not fall within the compensation law. The main concern of the petitioners was that the law restricted the possibility of compensation to those whose rights were arbitrarily violated in connection with a formal criminal procedure. Such a provision excluded from compensation those who were killed by Hungarian authorities without any formal judicial procedure (e.g. shot, or killed in forced labour camps). In order to redress this omission, the Court obliged the legislature to pass a further compensation law before the end of September 1995.
The Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional and annulled some specific provisions of the law. The law originally considered deportation as a mere form of deprivation of liberty. According to the Court, deportation during the Second World War meant far more, being an expulsion from the country by force, when Hungarian authorities, on racial, religious or political grounds, handed their own citizens to foreign authorities, who carried them off to concentration camps. Leaving these historical circumstances out of consideration violates the constitutional requirement of treating everybody with equal dignity. Deported people form a clearly defined specific group that the legislature has to respect. Therefore, the provisions whereby deportation to Germany and to the Soviet Union were regarded as mere deprivation of liberty were declared unconstitutional.
Another provision of the law differentiated between people compelled to undergo forced labour service - a form of unarmed military service for those pursued by the regime during the Second World War. The criterion for the difference in treatment was whether the forced labour camps belonged to combat force units or not. The Constitutional Court held arbitrary, and thus unconstitutional, the discrimination between those who had served in combat and in non-combat forces, because those belonging to non-combat forces were compelled to live in closed camps and were deprived of their liberty.
The remaining provisions challenged by the petitioners were upheld by the Court.