Open Society Foundations Sue Hungary Over Civil Society Law

Open Society Foundations Sue Hungary Over Civil Society Law

The Open Society Foundations have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against Hungary over legislation that, under the pretext of controlling migration, would criminalize and tax the work of independent civil society groups in the country.

In its filing, OSF argues that the latest of the government's so-called Stop Soros laws, which makes it illegal for individuals or civil society organizations to advise or represent asylum seekers or refugees in their asylum or residency applications without a government license, contravenes the guarantees of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. The complaint also argues that the provisions of the law are so broadly written that they are likely to have a far-reaching and chilling effect on the work of civil society groups far beyond the area of migration.

"These measures expose a broad range of legitimate activities to the risk of criminal prosecution, including preparing and distributing information and providing legal advice on migrants' rights, activities protected under European and international law," said the Open Society Justice Initiative's Daniela Ikawa, the lead lawyer in the case.

In May, following a series of measures by the Hungarian government aimed at cracking down on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations working in the country, OSF announced it was closing its Budapest office after thirty years.

"There is only one thing this legislation will stop, and that's democracy," said OSF president Patrick Gaspard. "The Hungarian government has fabricated a narrative of lies to blind people to the truth: that these laws were designed to intimidate independent civil society groups, in another step towards silencing all dissent."