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ECtHR / Applications nos. 42461/13 and 44357/13 / Judgment

Karácsony and Others v Hungary

Deciding Body type:
European Court of Human Rights
Deciding Body:
European Court of Human Rights / Grand Chamber
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
17/05/2016

Key facts of the case:

A. The applicants in case no. 42461/13

  1. The applicants, Mr Gergely Karácsony, Mr Péter Szilágyi, Mr Dávid Dorosz and Ms Rebeka Katalin Szabó, were born in 1975, 1981, 1985 and 1977 respectively and live in Budapest.
  2. At the material time the applicants were members of parliament and of the opposition party Párbeszéd Magyarországért (Dialogue for Hungary). Mr Szilágyi was also one of the notaries to Parliament.
    1. Facts regarding applicants Mr Karácsony and Mr Szilágyi
  3. At a plenary session on 30 April 2013, during a pre-agenda speech, an opposition member of parliament from the Hungarian Socialist Party criticised the Government and accused it of corruption with regard to, inter alia, the reorganisation of the tobacco market. Mr Zoltán Cséfalvay, the Secretary of State for the National Economy, was replying on behalf of the Government when the applicants Mr Karácsony and Mr Szilágyi carried into the centre of the Chamber a large placard displaying the words “FIDESZ [the party in Government] You steal, you cheat, and you lie.” Subsequently, they placed it next to the Secretary of State’s seat.
  4. The minutes of the session read as follows:
    “Dr Zoltán Cséfalvay, the Secretary of State for the National Economy: ...
    Tell them that the increase of commodity wages particularly affects those with a minimum income, since the minimum income has been increased by 5.4 %, which is impossible to keep up with inflation lower than 3.5%. And tell them also ... (Gergely Karácsony and Péter Szilágyi show a placard displaying the words “FIDESZ You steal, you cheat, and you lie.". – Interventions from the government MPs: - Rules of procedure! Doctor! The Speaker rings the bell.)
    Speaker: Honourable Parliament! (Constant interventions from the government MPs. Gergely Karácsony and Péter Szilágyi place the placard next to the speaker’s pulpit.) I request Mr Gergely Karácsony to remove the placard in the same way as they brought it in. (Gergely Karácsony and Péter Szilágyi leave the placard next to the speaker’s pulpit. – Constant interventions from the government MPs. – The Speaker rings the bell.) I request the ushers to remove the placard. (Interventions from the government MPs, amongst others: That’s all you can do.). I request the ushers to remove the placard. (The placard is removed.)
    Thank you very much. Please continue Mr Secretary of State! (Interventions from the government MPs: How could they get that in? – [The Speaker] rings the bell.)”
  5. On 6 May 2013 the Speaker presented a proposal to fine Mr Karácsony 50,000 Hungarian forints ((HUF); equivalent to EUR 170) and Mr Szilágyi HUF 185,520 (EUR 600) for their conduct, as recorded in the minutes and considered to be gravely offensive to parliamentary order, in application of sections 49(4) and 49(7) of the Parliament Act. The Speaker proposed that as regards Mr Szilágyi the maximum fine (a third of his monthly remuneration) be applied, since he had been elected an official of Parliament and was not just an ordinary MP. No other reasons were given in the proposal. A decision approving the Speaker’s proposal was adopted by the plenary on 13 May 2013, without debate.
    1. Facts regarding applicants Mr Dorosz and Ms Szabó
  6. On 21 May 2013 during the final vote on Bill no. T/10881 amending certain tobacco-related Acts the applicants Mr Dorosz and Ms Szabó carried into the centre of the Chamber and displayed there a large banner displaying the words “Here Operates the National Tobacco Mafia”.
  7. The minutes of the session read as follows:
    “Speaker: ... I ask the Honourable Parliament whether it adopts Bill T/10881 in accordance with the consolidated proposal as amended just now. Please vote! (Voting)
    I proclaim the decision: Parliament has (Mr Dávid Dorosz and Ms Rebeka Szabó display a banner with the words “Here Operates the National Tobacco Mafia”) adopted the Bill with 222 votes in favour, 81 against and 1 abstention. (Applause from FIDESZ MPs).
    I call the attention of the two Members of Parliament to the fact that their conduct constitutes a grave disruption of the plenary proceedings. I inform you accordingly that the Rules of Procedure and section 49(4) of the Parliament Act (continuous applause from members of the Hungarian Socialist Party) sanction such conduct. (Dr István Józsa. – We want legislation against the Mafia!) I ask my colleagues to untie and remove the banner. (Dávid Dorosz and Rebeka Szabó do not hand over the banner to the usher. – Short break. – Loud noise from the opposition MPs.) Please help the lady and gentleman, Members of Parliament, to remove the draperies. (Dávid Dorosz and Rebeka Szabó leave the session). Thank you very much.”
  8. On 24 May 2013 the Speaker submitted a proposal to fine Mr Dorosz and Ms Szabó HUF 70,000 (EUR 240) each for their conduct, as recorded in the minutes and considered to be gravely offensive to parliamentary order, in application of sections 49(4) and 49(7) of the Parliament Act. The proposal stated that an increased fine was necessary since similar seriously disruptive conduct had occurred before. No other reasons were specified in the proposal. The plenary adopted the proposal on 27 May 2013 without debate.

B. The applicants in case no. 44357/13

  1. The applicants, Ms Bernadett Szél, Ms Ágnes Osztolykán and Ms Szilvia Lengyel, were born in 1977, 1974 and 1971 and live in Budakeszi, Budapest and Gödöllő respectively.
  2. At the material time the applicants were members of parliament and of the opposition party LMP (Politics Can Be Different).
  3. On 21 June 2013 Parliament held a final vote on a new law, Bill no. T/7979 on the Transfer of Agricultural and Forestry Land. The legislative proposal was quite controversial and generated heated reactions among opposition members. In protest during the final vote on the bill, Ms Lengyel placed a small, golden wheelbarrow filled with soil on the table in front of the Prime Minister, while Ms Szél and Ms Osztolykán unfurled a banner displaying the words “Land distribution instead of land robbery!” in front of the Speaker’s pulpit; meanwhile, Ms Lengyel used a megaphone to speak. She had previously delivered two speeches during the detailed debate and one speech during the final debate on the bill, filing three amending motions, and introduced two amending proposals just before the final vote.
  4. The minutes of the session read as follows:
    “Speaker: The next point on the agenda is the vote on the amendments submitted prior to the final vote on the Transfer of Agricultural and Forestry Land Bill and the final vote. Members of Parliament have received the Bill under number T/7979 and the consolidated text of the Bill under number T/9797/2610.
    First we shall vote on the amendments. Their adoption requires a qualified majority.
    (continuous disruption of the session) ...
    Speaker: Because the members of Jobbik [opposition party] do not allow me to take my position at the Speaker’s pulpit, I will continue presiding over the session from here. (Strong applause from the ruling parliamentary group). Because members of Jobbik are not allowing the left-wing, opposition party member and notary to sit at [the Speaker’s pulpit] during the vote by roll call and conduct the vote and proclaim the results (Continuous noise). I request Members of Parliament to take their seats and listen to me! I request Parliament to confirm that since the members of Jobbik are not allowing the vote by roll call to take place, we shall cast our vote electronically. (Strong applause from the ruling parliamentary group. Interventions from the same side: Hurray!).
    Honourable Members of Parliament! I request all of you who agree, given the unusual circumstances, to cast your votes by electronic voting instead of vote by roll call. (Members of the parliamentary group Jobbik occupy the Speaker’s seat, chanting “Traitors, traitors” for several minutes. Szilvia Lengyel places a small golden wheelbarrow filled with soil on the table in front of the Prime Minister. Dr Bernadett Szél and Ágnes Osztolykán [the applicants] unfurl a banner containing the words ‘Land distribution instead of land robbery!’ in front of the Speaker’s pulpit).
    I request technical assistance to enable the vote to take place. (Short break. Members of the Jobbik group keep chanting: ‘Traitors’. Szilvia Lengyel uses a megaphone to speak. Dr. András Schiffer applauds. Intervention from the FIDESZ group: - Where are the parliamentary guards? Laughter.)
    Ms Member of Parliament! I have to warn you as well that your methods are unacceptable under the rules of procedure. I therefore request you to terminate your speech using the megaphone. Again, I request technical assistance to overcome this problem so that the Members of Parliament can exercise their right to vote, since I am hindered in accessing my own voting card. ...”
  5. On 25 June 2013 the Speaker presented a proposal to fine Ms Szél and Ms Lengyel HUF 131,400 (EUR 430) each and Ms Osztolykán HUF 154,000 (EUR 510) for their conduct, as recorded in the minutes and considered to be gravely offensive to parliamentary order, in application of sections 49(4) and 49(7) of the Parliament Act.
  6. The Speaker proposed that the maximum fine be applied, given the extraordinary situation that had developed during the voting process and that the MPs had engaged in conduct gravely offensive to parliamentary order by displaying their banner and using a megaphone. A decision approving the proposal of the Speaker was adopted by the plenary on 26 June 2013, without debate.

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,

  1. Decides to join the applications;
  2. Dismisses the Government’s preliminary objection;
  3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention;
  4. Holds that it is not necessary to examine separately the complaint under Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 10 of the Convention;
  5. Holds that the finding of a violation constitutes in itself sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicants;
  6. Holds that the respondent State is to pay, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement: EUR 170 (one hundred and seventy euros) to Mr Karácsony, EUR 600 (six hundred euros) to Mr Szilágyi, EUR 240 (two hundred and forty euros) to Mr Dorosz, EUR 240 (two hundred and forty euros) to Ms Szabó, EUR 430 (four hundred and thirty euros) to Ms Szél, EUR 510 (five hundred and ten euros) to Ms Osztolykán and EUR 430 (four hundred and thirty euros) to Ms Lengyel, plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of pecuniary damage;
  7. Holds that the respondent State is to pay, within three months, EUR 12,000 (twelve thousand euros), to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, to the applicants jointly, plus any tax that may be chargeable to them, in respect of costs and expenses;
  8. Holds that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
  9. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.