Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Its main activities are:
Legal advocacy: The HCLU initiates the formulation of new legislation that falls within its competence, as well as the modification of existing legislation and the changing of law enforcement practices.
Strategic litigation and legal aid: The HCLU provides pro bono legal aid to citizens who suffer human rights abuses. The HCLU is also the most prominent litigator in the field of freedom of information and freedom of expression, helping journalists with legal advice and representation on a daily basis.
Public education: The HCLU informs the general public of important legal cases on its website, its blogs and through the media, as well as in specifically designed informational brochures. The HCLU also organizes conferences and public debates, as well as trainings for different stakeholders.
Focus of the HCLU's activities
Patient rights: rights to health care, freedom of choice, informed consent, refusal of treatment, access to medical records, substituted decision making, advance directive, right to complaint, and 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
Right to political representation: NGO participation in the legislation
Drug policy: promote alternatives to the prohibition of drugs
AIDS policy: rights of people living with HIV
The HCLU helps patients to freely exercise their legal rights related 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.
The organization is governed by the principle that citizens have a right to control the use of their personal data and that they should have access to documents of public interest.
The HCLU rejects 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 of addressing the drug issue. Instead, support is needed for propagating information, and for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
The organization monitors cases where the rights of individuals held in closed institutions are restricted (those detained by police, the arrested, the imprisoned, and the inmates of psychiatric institutions) as well as the powers of authorities to restrict the liberty of citizens, and the manner in which these powers are used in daily practice.
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 preparing a statement, the organization seeks counsel of eminent experts of the topic concerned: jurists, lawyers and physicians.
We time the production of each of our statements to the day when parliamentary discussion of the concerned topic opens; and our statements are sent directly and especially to politicians, journalists and experts concerned. In the annex attached to our statements, we acquaint the Members of Parliament involved in the topic with our commentaries on, and recommended alternative wording of several articles of that bill.
The HCLU 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 that field. The Policy Papers are issued in Hungarian and in English as well.
The organization systematically observes the activities of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the WHO, the UN and the World Medical Association. We collect recommendations and norms that such organizations issue concerning patient/provider relationship and medical interventions. We make these documents accessible in Hungarian. (For example, we have arranged the Hungarian translation and publishing of 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 adjustment of the Hungarian legal system 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.
Members and advisors of the HCLU
The highest body of the HCLU is the General Assembly. The general meeting selects the members of the Executive Committee. The members of the Executive Committee administer the daily work of the HCLU, they elect the Executive Director of the Union, and they may recommend the adoption of new members for the General Assembly. The members of the Executive Committee and the permanent staff of the HCLU carry the daily affairs of the organization. They discharge the publicly announced services, and they formulate the HCLU's position on key issues of legal policy.
A Board of Advisors assists the work of the Executive Committee. The Board consists of renowned jurists, lawyers and physicians with whom we have evolved daily working relations. It is the duty of the Board of Supervisors - whose members are elected by the General Assembly - to supervise the activities and financial operation of the Executive Committee.
Resources and accountability
Since the HCLU is an independent non-profit organization, financial resources are largely provided by private foundations (eg. Open Society Institute, Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe), donors (eg: Tiara Ltd., Concorde Securities Ltd.) and more and more often by private individuals. Its annual income increases every year, reaching 300 million HUF in 2011. The HCLU has 15 full-time and 15 part-time employees and dozens of volunteers working on 9 different programs.
Innovations and achievements
The HCLU has a variety of highly successful tools and a complex strategy to promote the case of human rights and to help those who are defenseless. Beyond classical legal defense methods (legal advocacy, legal counseling, strategic litigation), the organization maintains five websites and its Video Advocacy Program has created a unique genre of documentaries, which are regularly screened abroad by a wide public. The staff of the Program has conducted trainings in all parts of the world, while their movies frequently win awards at international film festivals.
The HCLU is regularly present in the most popular Hungarian and foreign media platforms, and prestigious international organizations (eg. UN, Venice Commission, Parliamentary Committee of Council of Europe) request its opinion on certain issues.
In 2009, the HCLU won a freedom of information case at the European Court of Human Rights. The right of access to state-held information as part of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been formally recognized, as reflected in the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. For the first time in the Court's practice, it declared that withholding information needed to participate in public debate on matters of public importance may violate the freedom of expression, and by doing so, gave a new, extended interpretation of the concept of freedom of expression.
The HCLU has led a number of successful citizen mobilization campaigns in recent years. The organization has more than 30,000 fans, followers and supporters on social media platforms.
Today, the HCLU has become the most significant public interest NGO in Hungary in the fields of freedom of speech, freedom of information and drug policy.
The HCLU's Roma Program uses innovative methods such as Skype based legal aid service and video advocacy.
SozialMarie Award - 2012 - Unruhe Private Foundation (Austria)
The Year's Pro Bono Lawyer - 2011 - Hungarian Chamber of Lawyers, PILnet (Hungary)
IV. Roma Documentary Film Festival - 2011 - Depok Foundation (Hungary)
Erste Award for Social Integration - 2011 - Erste Foundation (Austria)
Kreativ Magazin Online Video Contest - 2011 - Kreativ Magazin (Hungary)
Andras Fay Award - 2008 - OTP Bank Plc. (Hungary)
SozialMarie Awards - 2007 - Unruhe Private Foundation (Austria)
Justitia Regnorum Fundamentum Award - 2007 - Dr. Attila Peterfalvi, parliamentary comissioner of data protection and freedom of information
NGO of the year - 2004 - NIOK Foundation (Hungary)