Open Society Foundations is taking the Hungarian government to court over legislation that makes it illegal for individuals or organizations to support asylum seekers, claiming the law undermines democracy and establishes a “dangerous precedent.”
The organization, which was founded by American-Hungarian financier George Soros, has filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on behalf of its Hungarian legal entity, it said in a statement Monday.
The so-called Stop Soros legislation “breaches the guarantees of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and must be repealed,” the organization said.
“Open Society is filing cases before the Constitutional Court and the ECHR on the same day, rather than awaiting a response from the Hungarian courts, because of the current and ongoing damage being done by the legislation and because Hungary’s courts have become increasingly reluctant to challenge the government,” it said.
Under the new Hungarian legislation, which was approved by the Hungarian parliament in June, anyone found to be “facilitating illegal immigration,” including by assisting nongovernmental organizations that help migrants seek asylum, faces up to a year in jail.
It also includes measures to further restrict asylum rules and a 25 percent tax on foreign donations received by those deemed supporters of illegal migration, which Open Society claimed will make it possible to “target all funding for human rights groups and NGOs.”
“There is only one thing this legislation will stop — and that’s democracy,” said Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Open Society Foundations. “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.”
The foundation announced in May it would close its operation in Hungary and move to Berlin, saying it faced deteriorating legal conditions and security concerns.
Earlier this month, members of the European Parliament passed a motiondeclaring that Hungary is at risk of breaching the EU’s core values and triggering a disciplinary process over rule-of-law issues.