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EU Human Rights Commissioner under fire

March 28th, 2013

A left-wing columnist believes European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding should resign after accusing the Hungarian justice system of political bias.

In 2000, Francis Ciaran Tobin, an Irish citizen, killed two children in a speeding accident in Hungary after losing control of his car. Tobin left for Ireland after the accident, and Hungarian courts sentenced him to 3 years in prison in absentia. The Hungarian government issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), and asked the Irish authorities to extradite Tobin to make him serve his sentence. In 2012, the High Court of Ireland rejected the request in a rare challenge to the EAW system, which was devised in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to fast-track extradition proceedings between EU member states, but has been broadly applied for many types of criminal proceedings. Hungary turned to Viviane Reding and asked her to investigate the Tobin case.The Commissioner, who has often criticized the Hungarian constitutional reforms (see BudaPost March 9), promised to act as a mediator, but the meeting between the Hungarian and the Irish ministers which she proposed has never materialised. In early March Ms. Reding in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said that she was, after all, not surprised by the Irish decision not to extradite Tobin, since, Reding claimed, Hungarian courts did not seem to be independent bodies.

Viviane Reding has made a huge mistake, writes Attila Gy. Fekete in Népszabadság. Fekete believes that the recent constitutional changes and the restructuring of the judiciary may indeed have cast doubt on the independence of Hungarian courts, but these reforms have nothing to do with the Tobin case, which was concluded well before the current government took power. Reding’s heated critique only plays into the hands of the Orbán government, which now will use what he calls the EU Commissioner’s groundless accusations as an illustration of blatant EU bias and double standards towards Hungary, Fekete concludes.

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