Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Red star ban scrapped

February 22nd, 2013

Mandiner’s commentator welcomes the ruling of the Constitutional Court which has lifted the ban on totalitarian symbols, and regrets the likelihood that Parliament will re-impose it, before the ruling comes into force.

On February 19, the Constitutional Court scrapped the paragraph of the Criminal Code which banned the use of totalitarian symbols in public, including the swastika and the red star. In an earlier ruling in 2000, the Court considered that the ban was constitutionally justifiable, but in the meantime Hungary lost a red star lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights. As BudaPost reported last year, the Strasbourg judges ruled in favour of the plaintiff, Mr Attila Vajnai, the leader of a small Communist party who had been condemned for exhibiting the red star on his jacket at a Mayday event. Hungary paid the 4000 Euros compensation to Mr Vajnai in non-pecuniary damage, but refused to amend the Penal Code. On the contrary, under the new Criminal Code, just enacted but which will only come into force in June this year, exhibiting totalitarian symbols may result in a prison sentence, rather than a fine as contained in the present Code. The Constitutional Court ruled that the ban, in both Codes, was too general and did not leave space for the authorities to take the circumstances and the impact of the individual cases into account. Although the ruling explicitly refers to the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, it does not distinguish the red star from the Nazi symbols. (The Strasbourg verdict argued that the red star also had other meanings, apart from symbolising Communist dictatorships.)

In a surprisingly lonely reaction to the verdict in the Hungarian press, Mandiner’s Beáta Bakó welcomes the fact that the Constitutional Court rejected the idea of making a distinction between right-wing and left-wing totalitarian symbols. It is unfortunate, she believes, that Parliament is highly likely to compose a new formula to replace the given paragraph by April 30, when the ruling comes into force. She believes that it will be extremely difficult to define the circumstances under which it is constitutionally correct to punish anyone wearing a red star and has serious doubts about the usefulness of such a provision in the Criminal Code, as she is convinced that there will not be many people exhibiting Communist symbols in public. “In a normal democracy, freedom of expression must be wide enough to tolerate that much,” she argues. Bakó also mentions that the paragraph immediately following the one just scrapped, one banning the denial of the crimes committed under Nazism and Communism is also under scrutiny within the Constitutional Court. Bakó thinks that ban is unconstitutional, for under the Basic Law the State is not entitled to rule over scientific (e.g. historical) issues. People are taught at school from their early childhood about the horrors of past dictatorships, therefore Bakó does not believe there would be many people whom the deniers could mislead with their fabrications.

Tags: ,