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Hungary: Ex-Strasbourg judge awaits European judgement on Supreme Court sacking

A former Strasbourg judge and President of Hungary’s Supreme Court hopes the European Court will support his human rights complaint against national authorities next week.

András Baka, who served the European court between 1991-2008, brought the case against Hungary after he was removed from office just two years into a six year term of office.

The European Court of Human Rights judgement on the complaint Baka v. Hungary (no. 20261/12) will be revealed on Tuesday 27 May.

In 2009, Baka was elected by the Parliament of Hungary as President of the Supreme Court for a six-year term, until 22 June 2015. His mandate was terminated three and a half years before this date.

From April 2010 a programme of comprehensive constitutional reform was undertaken in Hungary and, in that context, between 12 February and 3 November 2011, Baka, in his capacity as President of the Supreme Court and of the National Council of Justice, expressed his views on different legislative reforms affecting the judiciary (including the proposal to reduce the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 62 years old).

Subsequently, on 30 December 2011, the Transitional Provisions of the new Constitution (Fundamental Law of Hungary of 2011) were adopted, providing that the legal successor to the Supreme Court would be the Kúria (the historical Hungarian name for the Supreme Court) and that the mandate of the President of the Supreme Court would terminate upon the entry into force of the Fundamental Law.

As a consequence, Baka’s mandate as President of the Supreme Court terminated on 1 January 2012.

According to the criteria for the election of the President of the new Kúria, the candidates were required to have at least five years’ experience as a judge in Hungary. The time served as a judge in an international court was not counted.

This led to Baka’s ineligibility for the post of President of the new Kúria.

Baka complains under Article 6 § 1 (access to court) that he was denied access to a tribunal to contest his premature dismissal as President of the Supreme Court as it had been written into the Fundamental Law itself and was therefore not subject to any form of judicial review, even by the Constitutional Court.

Further relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), he alleges that he was dismissed because of his publicly expressed criticism of government policy on judicial reform whenhe was President of the Supreme Court. He also alleges that his premature dismissal breached Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

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