Baka v. Hungary

Application No. 20261/12 (2016)

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Baka v. Hungary

European Court of Human Rights, Grand Chamber
Application No. 20261/12 (2016)

Facts

In June 2009, the Hungarian Parliament elected András Baka (plaintiff) to a six-year term as president of Hungary’s Supreme Court and National Council of Justice. Baka assumed the presidency for a term set to expire on June 22, 2015. In April 2010, the Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Union and Christian Democratic People’s Party obtained a parliamentary majority and proposed significant constitutional and legislative reforms. In 2010 and 2011, Baka, acting in his professional capacity, spoke out about aspects of the proposed reforms that could impact the judiciary. For example, Baka expressed concern that a proposal to lower the mandatory retirement age for judges could force 10 percent of Hungary’s judges to retire earlier than planned, which could impact the functioning of the judiciary and delay pending court cases. Additionally, Baka told parliament that a proposal to overhaul the structure of the judicial branch would not actually address structural concerns and would unconstitutionally give an unsupervised external body the power to appoint judges and conduct other court business. Nevertheless, parliament proceeded with the proposed reforms. Parliament also amended existing law to provide that the president of the new Supreme Court, called the Kúria, would be elected by parliament from among existing judges who met certain criteria. Baka did not meet the stated criteria. Once the structural changes were enacted, effective January 1, 2012, Baka was terminated from his positions as president of the Supreme Court and National Council of Justice. Baka brought an application against the Hungarian government (defendant) in the European Court of Human Rights, asserting violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the convention). Among other things, Baka claimed interference with his right to freedom of expression, asserting that Baka had been prematurely terminated because he had expressed his views about the proposed reforms.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

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