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UN rights experts criticize Hungary law criminalizing homelessness

Two UN human rights experts were critical [press release] of the Hungarian Parliament [official website] on Wednesday for passing an amendment to the Hungarian Fundamental Law [text, PDF] that criminalizes homelessness. Hungary is estimated to currently have 30,000 homeless individuals. The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Magdalena Sepulveda and the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing [official websites] Raquel Rolnik stated that the amendment was an attempt to circumvent a ruling by the Hungarian Constitutional Court last year to decriminalize homelessness [press release]. Rolnik stated that there are not currently enough homeless shelters in the country to handle the number of homeless people and that the amendment "is contrary to Hungary's international human rights obligations of equality and non-discrimination." Sepulveda said that the previous legislation, which was overturned by the Constitutional Court, resulted in more than USD $125,000 fines against Hungarian homeless people.

The Hungarian Constitutional Court has recently had a contentious relationship with the Hungarian Parliament. Last month the Parliament approved several constitutional amendments [JURIST report] that had previously been struck down by the country's Constitutional Court. In February Hungary's Constitutional Court struck down [JURIST report] a law that outlines how churches are given official designation, finding that it was too political. In January the court struck down an electoral law [JURIST report] requiring voters to register to vote at least two weeks before elections in 2014. The new rules had been proposed by the conservative Fidesz [party website, in Hungarian] party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban [official website].

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