[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Hungary [official website, in Hungarian] on Monday ruled [press release, in Hungarian] that a new law lowering the mandatory retirement age for the country’s judges is unconstitutional. The court held that the new law, which lowered the retirement age from 70 to 62 years resulting in sudden retirement of hundreds of judges, endangered the independence of the judiciary and violated EU law. The court also noted that while the country’s legislature could set the upper age for judges, it was not allowed to set a lower mandatory retirement age unless gradually introduced. The ruling echoed criticism raised [JURIST report] by the European Commission [official website] in January. The Commission’s president Jose Manuel Barroso [official website] had announced [press release] that he would challenge three new Hungarian laws including the law setting the mandatory retirement age for judges. The other two were laws related to an independent national central bank and EU law’s recognition of the independence of data protection supervisors.
Hungary has been facing much criticism related to its passing of new controversial laws. In January, tens of thousands of protesters assembled [JURIST report] outside of the country’s State Opera to express their opposition of the new constitution [text, PDF, in Hungarian], which took effect beginning of this year. They argued the constitution gives the government too much power over the media, economy and religion in violation of international human rights laws. In addition, they claimed that the new constitution passed by two-thirds of the Parliament [official website] had nullified the principle of checks and balances. The government responded that the new constitution was overdue and complies with national and European values. A month earlier, the country’s Constitutional Court struck down certain provisions of the country’s new media law, which created the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) [official website, in Hungarian], as an unconstitutional restraint on press freedom amid demands [JURIST reports] by rights groups including Amnesty International [advocacy website]. In August, the court struck down [JURIST report] a law regulating religious organizations after 16 Hungarian churches have appealed seeking to block it. The constitution was signed by the country’s President Pal Schmitt in April despite concerns from civil society leaders and opposition politicians. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] had alleged [press release] that the new constitution “enshrines discrimination” and jeopardizes the rights of people with disabilities, women and LGBT people.