BUDAPEST 13 December 2004 – The Constitutional Court of Hungary in a 7 to 2 vote rejected the proposals claiming that drug laws that punish possession of drugs for personal use are unconstitutional. The Court accepted another proposals’ argumentation against certain forms of diversion treatment. According to the resolution, nobody has a right to be high, therefore criminal prosecution against drug users is not unconstitutional.
The 116 pages document argues that illicit drugs are far more dangerous than licit ones. According to the judges, „the risk of alcohol addiction is much lower than the risk of addiction to illicit drugs, because the time and dose necessary for the development of addiction is very different and the acute harms of use are much lower.” The resolution claims that drug use leads to the „loss of personal freedom”, therefore even the abridgment of personal freedom is allowed in the fight against drugs. In addition, they say, there is only one effective way to prevent the use of illicit substances: criminal prosecution.
The Hungarian Constitutional Court directly modified the Hungarian Penal Code: by abolishing provisions concerning certain forms of diversion-treatment they broadened the personal scope of application of the law.
The modification was based on the proposal of Csaba Hende (independent MP, Political Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice 1998-2002), who requested the Court to abolish certain articles of the drug legislation which came into effect in March, 2003. The new legislation allowed persons who possessed and shared small amounts of illicit drugs to chose diversion into a 6 months treatment program instead of criminal prosecution. The resolution did not completely abolish the regulations concerning diversion into therapy, but limited the scope of people who can be diverted. After Monday people who share illicit drugs for collective use cannot chose alternative therapy because the Court stated that the term „collective use” is an ambiguous and uncertain expression.
„There are more problems with this decision,” says Balazs Denes, Executive Director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, a human rights watchdog NGO in Hungary, promoting harm reduction and critics of prohibition. ”The resolution abolished paragraphs which tried to approach a reality-based legal differentiation between drug traffickers and drug users. The Court used its power to change the criminal code from one day to another. Even the Parliament, which usually practices the legislative function, gives time for society to prepare for the changes, but the Court now changed the rules without setting such a timeframe. To top that, some parts of the reasoning used in the decision reminds us of the old-fashioned American propaganda movies from the thirties. Only one Judges’ dissent opinion contains known, quoted and researchable information on the drug phenomena, the rest based their arguments on false beliefs and stereotypes, without having consulted any experts in the matter.”
Several weeks before the decision was made, HCLU requested the Court to release one of the original submissions, to examine its arguments and promote public discussion on it. The Court did not release the information, thus HCLU initiated a lawsuit based on the Freedom of Information Act. The first hearing of the case is going to take place on the 20th of December.
The decision of the
For immediate release!
Contact: Peter Sarosi, HCLU