The HCLU is fighting the proposal of the government to criminalize more young people for drug related offences
The Conservative government of Viktor Orbán took office in 2010. In the first two years of its governance it used its two-third majority in the parliament to adopt a series of restrictive laws that gave much concerns to European Union institutions. The a new media law limits the freedom of speech, the new election law actually makes it very hard for opposion parties to win the elections, and a modified new constitution with much weaker protection of civil liberties. The Orban-administration is very hostile to those minorities deemed to be deviant by the majority, for example homeless people and people who use drugs. It is no an administrative offence to “use public places for living” and now a new Criminal Code would restrict sanctions against people who use drugs.
The current Hungarian legislation is already one of the most restrictives in Europe. There is no other EU member state that uses lifetime imprisonment without the possibility of parole for drug related offences. According to the Criminal Code, the simple possession of small amounts of drugs can be sanctioned with 2 years of imprisonment – but from 1993 there has been an alternative to incarceration. Criminal charges were dismissed in the case of those small schale drug offenders who agreed to participate in a 6 month prevention or treatment program. Now the government tries to limit the access to alternative treatment: they claim only those offenders should be allowed to avoid criminal sanctions who had no previous offence in the past two years and who are ready to fully cooperate with the authorities, that means, to confess whom they purchased the drug from. This change would hit those drug users harder who have a bigger chance to get arrested multiple times within two years, either because they use more regularly, or they belong to a vulnerable group (for example, police stops Roma drug users more often than non-Roma people on the street). There is a lack of differentiation of drugs in the Hungarian Criminal Code, so a seller of cannabis is punished as strict as the sellers of heroin. There is no difference between "social dealers" and traffickers, or medical or non-medical production of cannabis.
In addition, drug users will be motivated to confess against their peers to avoid punishment – even if the person who has given drug to them is just as a user as they are. And the worst part of the proposed new legiaslation is that those people who share drugs even in a small quantity (e.g., passing a joint) will face 2-8 years of incarceration. Frankly, how many drug users we know who never sold drugs to their friends? The borderline between users and sellers is not as clear as the Conservatives think. The new proposal says that if a young person older than 18 years old possesses or acquires a single marijuana joint in the proximity of a school or dormitory should be punishable up to three years of impriosonment. Again, this is not life-like to punish teenagers for experimenting with drugs.
The government let three weeks for social discussion of the proposed new Criminal Code, NGOs can send their expert opinions until March 9. The government is to submit the bill to the parliament later in March. The HCLU is in the forefront of the media debates now and tries to organize civil society resistance.
Posted by Peter Sarosi