Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is a non-profit human rights watchdog NGO established in Budapest, Hungary in 1994. The HCLU operates independently of political parties, the state or any of its institutions. Its aim is to promote the case of fundamental rights and principles laid down by the Constitution of the Republic of Hungary and by international conventions. Generally it has the goal of building and strengthening the civil society and rule of law in Hungary and the CEE region. The HCLU strives to educate citizens about their basic human rights and freedoms, and takes stand against undue interference and misuse of power by those in positions of authority. Its main activities...

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Tatra utca 15/b
Budapest, Budapest 1136
 BRIDGE Number: 0218237027

Management Team

Stefania Kapronczay, Mate Szabo, Andrea Pelle, Peter Sarosi, Tamas Kardos, Andrea Polgar, Eszter Jovanovics, Dalma Dojcsak, Ferenc Bagyinszky, Tivadar Huttl, Szabolcs Hegyi, Istvan Takacs, Gyorgy Folk, Nora Perlik


The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is a non-profit human rights watchdog NGO established in Budapest, Hungary in 1994. The HCLU operates independently of political parties, the state or any of its institutions. Its aim is to promote the case of fundamental rights and principles laid down by the Constitution of the Republic of Hungary and by international conventions. Generally it has the goal of building and strengthening the civil society and rule of law in Hungary and the CEE region. The HCLU strives to educate citizens about their basic human rights and freedoms, and takes stand against undue interference and misuse of power by those in positions of authority. Its main activities are: Legal advocacy: The HCLU initiates the formulation of new legislation that falls within its competence, as well as the modification of existing legislation and the changing of law enforcement practices. Strategic litigation and legal aid: The HCLU provides pro bono legal aid to citizens who suffer human rights abuses. The HCLU is also the most prominent litigator in the field of freedom of information and freedom of expression, helping journalists with legal advice and representation on a daily basis. Public education: The HCLU informs the general public of important legal cases on its website, its blogs and through the media, as well as in specifically designed informational brochures. The HCLU also organizes conferences and public debates, as well as trainings for different stakeholders. Focus of the HCLU's activities Patient rights: rights to health care, freedom of choice, informed consent, refusal of treatment, access to medical records, substituted decision making, advance directive, right to complaint, and to participate in decision making related to health care Right to self-determination: abortion, euthanasia Right to informational privacy: protection of medical data, disclosure of medical data, protection of personal data in the media, access to public information Right to freedom of expression: protection of basic information rights Right to political representation: NGO participation in the legislation Drug policy: promote alternatives to the prohibition of drugs AIDS policy: rights of people living with HIV The HCLU helps patients to freely exercise their legal rights related to medical treatment: the right to informed consent, the right to refuse treatment, the right to have access to their medical files, and the right to confidentiality in the patients' relationship with their physicians. The organization is governed by the principle that citizens have a right to control the use of their personal data and that they should have access to documents of public interest. The HCLU rejects the policy of subjecting drug dependent people and occasional drug users to criminal sanctions. We believe that increasing police rigor is not the right way of addressing the drug issue. Instead, support is needed for propagating information, and for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. The organization monitors cases where the rights of individuals held in closed institutions are restricted (those detained by police, the arrested, the imprisoned, and the inmates of psychiatric institutions) as well as the powers of authorities to restrict the liberty of citizens, and the manner in which these powers are used in daily practice. The HCLU consistently monitors the formulation of new pieces of legislation that fall within its competence; right from the initial conception of a draft law down to its enactment. Before preparing a statement, the organization seeks counsel of eminent experts of the topic concerned: jurists, lawyers and physicians. We time the production of each of our statements to the day when parliamentary discussion of the concerned topic opens; and our statements are sent directly and especially to politicians, journalists and experts concerned. In the annex attached to our statements, we acquaint the Members of Parliament involved in the topic with our commentaries on, and recommended alternative wording of several articles of that bill. The HCLU publishes a Policy Paper Series. Each issue sums up the liberal position on a legal policy issue involving a fundamental right. It surveys the Hungarian scene, and outlines the main policy aim of the HCLU in that field. The Policy Papers are issued in Hungarian and in English as well. The organization systematically observes the activities of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the WHO, the UN and the World Medical Association. We collect recommendations and norms that such organizations issue concerning patient/provider relationship and medical interventions. We make these documents accessible in Hungarian. (For example, we have arranged the Hungarian translation and publishing of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine of the Council of Europe and the Amsterdam Declaration of the WHO.) It is our aim to achieve adjustment of the Hungarian legal system to the most recent international legal norms, which means that laws and other legal instruments need adjustment. It is our policy to recommend to the competent authorities that Hungary should join the relevant international conventions. Members and advisors of the HCLU The highest body of the HCLU is the General Assembly. The general meeting selects the members of the Executive Committee. The members of the Executive Committee administer the daily work of the HCLU, they elect the Executive Director of the Union, and they may recommend the adoption of new members for the General Assembly. The members of the Executive Committee and the permanent staff of the HCLU carry the daily affairs of the organization. They discharge the publicly announced services, and they formulate the HCLU's position on key issues of legal policy. A Board of Advisors assists the work of the Executive Committee. The Board consists of renowned jurists, lawyers and physicians with whom we have evolved daily working relations. It is the duty of the Board of Supervisors - whose members are elected by the General Assembly - to supervise the activities and financial operation of the Executive Committee. Resources and accountability Since the HCLU is an independent non-profit organization, financial resources are largely provided by private foundations (eg. Open Society Institute, Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe), donors (eg: Tiara Ltd., Concorde Securities Ltd.) and more and more often by private individuals. Its annual income increases every year, reaching 300 million HUF in 2011. The HCLU has 15 full-time and 15 part-time employees and dozens of volunteers working on 9 different programs. Innovations and achievements The HCLU has a variety of highly successful tools and a complex strategy to promote the case of human rights and to help those who are defenseless. Beyond classical legal defense methods (legal advocacy, legal counseling, strategic litigation), the organization maintains five websites and its Video Advocacy Program has created a unique genre of documentaries, which are regularly screened abroad by a wide public. The staff of the Program has conducted trainings in all parts of the world, while their movies frequently win awards at international film festivals. The HCLU is regularly present in the most popular Hungarian and foreign media platforms, and prestigious international organizations (eg. UN, Venice Commission, Parliamentary Committee of Council of Europe) request its opinion on certain issues. In 2009, the HCLU won a freedom of information case at the European Court of Human Rights. The right of access to state-held information as part of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been formally recognized, as reflected in the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. For the first time in the Court's practice, it declared that withholding information needed to participate in public debate on matters of public importance may violate the freedom of expression, and by doing so, gave a new, extended interpretation of the concept of freedom of expression. The HCLU has led a number of successful citizen mobilization campaigns in recent years. The organization has more than 30,000 fans, followers and supporters on social media platforms. Today, the HCLU has become the most significant public interest NGO in Hungary in the fields of freedom of speech, freedom of information and drug policy. The HCLU's Roma Program uses innovative methods such as Skype based legal aid service and video advocacy. Awards SozialMarie Award - 2012 - Unruhe Private Foundation (Austria) The Year's Pro Bono Lawyer - 2011 - Hungarian Chamber of Lawyers, PILnet (Hungary) IV. Roma Documentary Film Festival - 2011 - Depok Foundation (Hungary) Erste Award for Social Integration - 2011 - Erste Foundation (Austria) Kreativ Magazin Online Video Contest - 2011 - Kreativ Magazin (Hungary) Andras Fay Award - 2008 - OTP Bank Plc. (Hungary) SozialMarie Awards - 2007 - Unruhe Private Foundation (Austria) Justitia Regnorum Fundamentum Award - 2007 - Dr. Attila Peterfalvi, parliamentary comissioner of data protection and freedom of information NGO of the year - 2004 - NIOK Foundation (Hungary)


Patients' Rights Program: The Patients' Rights Program deals with patients' rights guaranteed by the Act on Health Care and other general patients' rights issues. The program turns special attention to issues related to everyone's right to make informed decisions about themselves, such as reproductive freedoms (abortion, contraception, artificial insemination, surrogacy, home birth, etc.), the right to refuse treatment and euthanasia. It also fights against treating poverty and homelessness as a law enforcement problem. It strives for the restructuring of the guardian system, so that the intellectually disabled can live as integrated members of society and not be secluded in abandoned mass institutions. The program monitors the observation of human rights in institutions where intellectually disabled people are treated and attended. HIV/AIDS Program: The HIV/AIDS program deals with the legal aspects of the HIV/AIDS issue, Hungarian and EU strategies and the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. We continually monitor HIV patients' treatment and care as well as HIV testing practices in Hungary. We regularly publish reports and studies on the subject. The HCLU'S HIV/AIDS Program and its supervisor are members of a number of HIV/AIDS related international organizations. Political Freedoms Program: The Political Freedoms Program deals with the right to freedom of speech and freedom of press, the right to freedom of assembly and association, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right to express one's views freely, private or public, even if those views are shocking or offensive, provided they do not harm any others rights, is the basis of an open and democratic society. The HCLU fights against undue restraints and restrictions of political freedoms and defends anyone in public or in court, regardless of ideological affiliations. Data Protection and Freedom of Information Program: Freedom of information guarantees the transparency of public authorities' activities and the spending of public funds. Citizens can only be active participants of public life if they are familiar with the necessary information - appropriate information is fundamental to freedom of opinion. The HCLU's legal actions in the field of public interest data contributed to the shaping of court and ruling practices in Hungary. At the same time, it is also important that authorities and the business sector can only access private information indispensable for their efficient functioning and that people can decide for themselves with whom they wish to share their personal information. Drug Policy Program : In its early years, the Drug Policy Program primarily provided help to drug users and promoted alternatives to the prohibition of drugs. In 1998, the HCLU Drug Policy Program expanded its legal aid services beyond individual clients and now assists harm reduction service providers and outpatient drug treatment clinics in addition to individuals. We currently provide legal assistance to arrested methadone doctors, street outreach workers and needle exchange program operators. The HCLU also arranges conferences and provides legal training for substance abuse treatment providers. Our publications, two of which are available in English, focus on core questions of Hungarian Drug Policy, including the benefits of harm reduction (Harm Reduction Programs in Hungary, 2003) and the impact of intravenous drug use (Intravenous Drug Use and Public Health in Hungary, 2005). To complement our legal aid services we also advocate for more sensitive drug policies through both governmental lobbying and media commentary. The HCLU's Media Monitor Program monitors every single drug-related public appearance in Hungary. Since 2006, apart from the Program's activities in Hungary, it also engages in regional and international drug policy. It has its own news portal and is actively present in social media ( 'Roma Program Not Just for the Roma': The main target groups of the HCLU's Roma Program are those living in deep poverty; primarily the overrepresented Roma population. The aim of the HCLU is to help so that the enforcement of their rights and interests become more efficient. The Program combines the classic legal defense methods (legal advocacy, legal counseling, and strategic litigation) with innovative elements: regular personal presence in the field, quick and effective media outreach, community organizing activities and the use of cost-effective communication coupled with legal aid. At 25 legal support stations (TASZPONTs) located in small impoverished villages with a high proportion of Roma inhabitants, counseling is offered via Skype by attorneys from Budapest, while the stations themselves are maintained by local Roma activists (TASZPONT leaders). These local leaders also participate in regular trainings on legal issues facilitated by the HCLU. Strategic litigation is offered in severe cases which harbor the possibility of changing legislation, law-enforcement or the public attitude. As part of its legal advocacy activity, the HCLU also constantly monitors legislation and law enforcement measures. Regular media presence is maintained by the great number of the HCLU's advocacy films, video messages, blog posts on our blog (in Hungarian) and on our website (in English). Hungarian and international journalists of the most popular media platforms (Times, Guardian, Spiegel etc.) often ask our fieldworkers to accompany them to local Roma communities. As a consequence of the systematic intimidation of Roma by extremists in the village of Gyongyospata, the Program extended its activities to ensuring a constant and active presence in the crisis situation as well. Fighting against discriminative municipality practices and models of extreme right-wing settlement leadership are also in the focus of the Program's activities. East East: Partnership Beyond Borders Program: This Program supports collaborative exchange of information, experience, expertise and knowledge through multi-national initiatives, which seek to build international networks of informed, empowered people, who act to engage citizens to affect positive change in the realization of ideas and practices of open society. Video Advocacy Program: The HCLU has launched its video advocacy program called HCLU Film in 2007. We have produced several hundreds of films since, mostly in the field of drug policy, but we are making more and more films in other fields of the HCLU's work as well. These films can be distributed and downloaded freely, according to the licensing conditions of Creative Commons. The Program pays special attention to sharing its expertise with other civil society organizations; its international trainings are highly popular among participants. Movies of the Program regularly win awards at national and international contests and festivals. The portfolio of 2011 is available here: International relations The HCLU is supervisor of the following international initiatives: European Drug Policy Initiative (EDPI) Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (SWAN) The organization is contributor of the following international networks: AIDS Action Europe Big Brother Awards International Eurasian Harm Reduction Network European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies Freedom of Information Advocates Network Global Internet Liberty Campaign International Antiprohibitionist League International Drug Policy Consortium The HCLU is involved in the following international campaigns: Dare to Act! Now more than ever! Count the cost!

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