Court orders Hungary to pay for barring access to police files

31st May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Judges at the Strasbourg-based ECHR found that Janos Kenedi's rights to freedom of expression and a fair hearing had been denied and that the Hungarian authorities had acted arbitrarily and misused their power.

Strasbourg -- Judges at the European Court of Human Rights ordered Hungary to pay damages to an historian whose access to documents about the communist-era secret police was blocked for over a decade.

Judges on Tuesday at the Strasbourg-based ECHR found that Janos Kenedi's rights to freedom of expression and a fair hearing had been denied and that the Hungarian authorities had acted arbitrarily and misused their power.

The court awarded Kenedi 6,000 euros (8,400 dollars) in damages.

The case dates back to September 1998 when the interior ministry refused Kenedi access to documents for research into the Hungarian State Security Service.

Kenedi, now 62, is a specialist in the history of dictatorships and in 1999 he challenged the ministry's action in a Hungarian court, which ruled, in his favour.

The ministry had wanted Kenedi to sign a confidentiality statement, which he refused, and in 2000 he obtained a court order to enforce the access.

By December 2003, all but one of the documents were transferred to Hungary's national archives and open to the public. Kenedi has still not had unrestricted access to that one withheld document, the court said.

The ECHR judges said that Kenedi's rights had been violated due to the excessive length of the proceedings of over 10 years.

"The Court concluded that the authorities had acted arbitrarily and in defiance of domestic law," a statement from the ECHR said.

The judges held that the Hungarian authorities "had misused their powers by delaying Mr Kenedi’s exercise of his right to freedom of expression," it said.

The court awarded Kenedi 6,000 euros (8,400 dollars) in damages.

AFP/Expatica

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