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European Court rules against effective life imprisonment

May 23rd, 2014

A conservative commentator condemns the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights as contrary to Hungarian public feeling. Her left-wing counterpart, on the other hand, wonders if courts will hereinafter sentence any criminal to life without eligibility for parole.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the category of life imprisonment introduced by the new Constitution is a violation of norms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling calls on Hungary “to put in place a reform of the system of review of full life sentences, to guarantee an examination in every case, to decide whether continued detention is justified on legitimate grounds and to enable prisoners thus sentenced to foresee what they must do to be considered for release and under what conditions”. PM Orbán called the verdict “outrageous” and said the court “put perpetrators’ rights above the rights of innocent people and victims”, and insisted that the law should not be changed. State Secretary for Justice Bence Rétvári said ten EU member countries have similar regulations in force.

Magyar Nemzet’s Anna Szabó writes that the Strasbourg court should not try to overrule what follows from the sense of justice of Hungarians. The pro-government columnist notes that the majority of Hungarians seem to endorse life imprisonment in the case of brutal criminals. Szabó also wonders how it would be possible for someone, after spending 25 years in jail, to reintegrate into society and lead a normal life.

The government will open a new front in its freedom fight, Károly Lencsés writes in Népszabadság. The Fidesz government does not want to comply with the verdict even if this involves further criticism from the European Council, the left-wing commentator predicts. Lencsés wonders if after the ruling Hungarian judges will sentence anyone to effective life imprisonment, or will dare to demonstrate the independence of the courts by not applying the contested legislation.

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