Press briefing notes: Hungary, Thailand/Rohingyas and Kenya

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 15 March 2013

1) Hungary

We are concerned about the swift adoption of the most recent amendment to the Fundamental Law (Constitution) by the Hungarian Parliament on 11 March 2013. The amendment was passed without proper public discussion on issues that may have a profound effect on the enjoyment of human rights by the Hungarian population.

This Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law raises serious concerns in a variety of areas, including possible threats to the independence of the judiciary, the authority and the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and, by extension, to the rule of law in general.

In particular, we also note with concern that the new amendment may further strengthen the already extensive powers over the judiciary held by the President of the National Judicial Office. For example, the amendment upholds the President’s right to reassign cases to a different court – a provision that was previously adopted as a transitional measure and was subsequently struck down as unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

The new amendment also gives the Prosecutor General the right to transfer cases to a court other than the legally designated one – despite the fact that this provision earlier had been struck down by the Constitutional Court as unconstitutional and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government is apparently recognizing the role of the Venice Commission that handles legal constitutional issues of the Council of Europe, and gives advice on compliance with international and regional norms. We welcome that, and will continue to watch closely how this situation develops.

2) Thailand/Rohingyas

We are very concerned by allegations that in north of Phuket the Thai Navy shot dead at least two Rohingya asylum seekers, fleeing Myanmar by boat. The shooting allegedly took place on 22 February while the Navy was transferring around 130 people from the boat they had arrived in into smaller boats.

The Prime Minister has said to the media that the Government is investigating the incident. We urge the Government of Thailand to ensure that the investigation into these allegations is full, prompt and impartial, and that anyone who has committed a crime during this incident is brought to justice.

We further urge Thailand, along with other countries in the region, to consider alternatives to the "help-on" policy, which leads to deaths at sea, and to find alternatives to detaining migrants and asylum seekers, including children, in accordance with its international human rights obligations.

The regional implications of the outbreak of ethnic violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state last year have increasingly raised concerns about reports of smuggling and trafficking in persons and tragic incidents such as this one involving the boat. We call on the Government of Myanmar to address the root cause of the discrimination and violence in Rakhine state. We also believe that a regional response is needed to address the multiple dimensions of the current crisis.

3) Kenya

The team deployed by the High Commissioner to monitor human rights issues linked to the elections in Kenya returned on Wednesday, 13 March.

The team visited several polling stations on election day and interacted with other international and local observers, UN agencies, national institutions, government officials and security agencies. It has reported that the elections were peaceful and characterised by an absence of any systematic violations of human rights.

Nevertheless, some challenges were noted including broken biometric voter registration kits, long queues and the length of time it took for many voters to cast their ballots -- in some cases up to 10 hours. In some polling stations, vulnerable people including pregnant women, nursing mothers and the disabled abandoned the queues and did not vote at all, because they did not have the physical strength to endure such a long wait.

The team also looked into the circumstances surrounding the fatal attacks on the eve of the elections in a suburb of Mombasa, allegedly carried out by the Mombasa Republican Council. Nine policemen were killed in these attacks, and three suspects have been arrested, arraigned in court and placed under investigative custody.

The Office of the High Commissioner congratulates the government and people of Kenya for the broadly successful conduct of the national elections, and we hope that Kenya will continue on the path of reform and social justice.

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or Cécile Pouilly (+ 41 22 917 9310 /

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