For over two decades, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union has been active in protecting the rights of citizens against undue interference by those in position of public power. The HCLU monitors legislation, pursues strategic litigation, conducts public education and launches awareness raising media campaigns. It stands by citizens unable to defend themselves, assisting them in protecting their basic rights. Our lawyers provide free legal aid service in about 2000 cases per year and this number is increasing. The HCLU, with headquarters in Budapest, litigates across the country and all the way to the Hungarian Supreme Court. The HCLU is present in the courtrooms, in the ministries, at international events, at universities and in small villages. Its many partners include domestic and foreign individuals and institutions, as well as international organizations. It works in cooperation with volunteers to ensure that fundamental rights and principles may indeed prevail in Hungary. The HCLU’s activities cover two major areas: the protection of civil liberties and the safeguarding equality for the most disadvantaged groups.

Our mission

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.

For the full staff of the HCLU click here!

Members and supporters of the HCLU

The highest body of the HCLU is the General Assembly. The General Assembly elects a Management Board with a minimum of 3, and a maximum of 5 members. The members of the Management Board administer the daily work of HCLU, elects from its members the Executive Director of the NGO, and may recommend to the General Assembly to adopt new members. The members of the Management Board and the permanent staff of the HCLU are responsible for managaing the daily tasks. In addition, they provide the publicly announced services and formulate the position of the HCLU on key issues of legal policy.

It is the duty of the Supervisory Board - whose members are elected by the General Assembly - to supervise the activities and financial operation of the Management Board. The General Assembly elects a Supervisory Board with 3 members. The Supervisory Board controls in advance the functioning and the financing of the NGO.

Focus areas of the HCLU's activities

  • Patients' rights: right to health care, right to freedom of choice, informed consent, right to refuse treatment, access to medical records, substituted decision making, advance directive, right to complaint, right 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 on the Internet
  • Right to political representation: NGO participation in the legislation
  • Drug policy
  • AIDS policy

We are governed by the principle that the citizens have a right to control the use of their personal data and that they should have an access to documents of public interest.

We help patients to freely exercise their legal rights with regard 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.

We reject 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 to address the issue. Instead, support is needed for propagating information; and for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

We monitor cases where the rights of individuals held in closed institutions (those detained by police, the arrested, the imprisoned, and the inmates of psychiatric institutions) are restricted as well as the powers of the authorities to restrict the liberty of citizens, and the manner in which these powers are used in daily practice.

Ongoing projects of the HCLU

  • Legal advocacy: legal advocacy by propagating international norms, publication of the statement series, participation in the preparation of legislation and contribution to related parliamentary debates, motions (to the Constitutional Court and to the parliamentary ombudsman, etc.), public debates, workshops
  • Legal aid service: telephone hotline 8 hours a day, online counseling, legal aid service, impact litigation
  • Public education project: informational brieflets series, public appearances: media, public debates, networking with organizations abroad, edition of policy papers on liberal legal policy

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 working out a statement, we seek counsel from eminent experts of the topic concerned: jurists, lawyers and physicians.

We schedule the production of each of our statements to the day when parliamentary discussion of the given topic opens, and they are sent in particular to politicians, journalists and the experts concerned. In the annex attached to our statements, we acquaint the Members of Parliament most directly involved in the discussion of the bill concerned with our commentaries on, and recommended alternative wording of, several articles of the bill.

The HCLU also 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 the field. The Policy Papers are issued in both Hungarian and English.

We systematically observe the activities of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the WHO, the UN and the World Medical Association. We collect the recommendations and norms that such organizations issue in relation to the patient/provider relationship and medical interventions. We make these documents accessible in Hungarian. (For example, we have arranged the translation of, and published in Hungarian, 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 that the Hungarian legal system be adjusted 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.

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