John Horvath on Sun, 17 May 1998 06:18:21 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> incident (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
date: Tue, 12 May 1998 22:34:36 +0200 (MET DST)
from: John Horvath <>
to: Interior Minister <>
cc: Amnesty International <>,
    Andras Bencsik <>,
    Tamas Bodoky <>, Geert Lovik <>,
    Prime Minister <>,
    European Council <>,
    Blue Danube Radio <>,
    National Security Office <>,
    Prime Minister's Office <>,
    Tibor Vidos <>, Greg Guma <>,
    Florian Roetzer <>
subject: incident

The following letter is being forwarded to you in order to give you more
information about an incident that recently took place in Budapest,
Hungary. Although the incident is not as serious as others of this kind,
it nevertheless is meant to provide you with personal, background
information. Such incidents occur regularly in Hungary, and may be used
as a point of departure or to compliment existing research in this area.
Please feel free to disseminate or forward this information to wherever
you may deem appropriate.

The attachment with this message is scanned from the original and is in
a PCX file format. If you have any problems retrieving the image, or if
you would like more information, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your time and support.

John Horvath


Ministry of the Interior (Belugyminiszterium)
Attn.: Gabor Kuncze, Interior Minister
Jozsef A. u. 2/4

John Horvath (Horvath Janos)
Pf. 464

May 11, 1998

Dear Mr Kuncze,

Although I am a Hungarian citizen living and working in Hungary, I am
writing you this letter in English so as to disseminate the information
herein to a wide audience. After all, if Hungary wishes to be part of
the European Union, where at present there are nine official languages
(and that the subject of this letter is also addressed indirectly to
officials from various European Union bodies), then the government of
Hungary must start getting used to civic discourse that includes those
whose native language is not Hungarian. In any case, enclosed with this
letter is a copy of the original complaint, in Hungarian, to which I
would like to draw your attention.

To state my case very briefly: on the night of Hungary's parliamentary
elections (May 10, 1998) I was in a pub with a friend and, along with a
dozen or so other people, were suddenly controlled by a group of police
officers. When they asked me for my papers I asked why, to which they
replied that it was a routine check. These police officers did not wear
the standard police uniform, but a plain, dark suit with the word
"police" (in Hungarian) written on it. Since I am unfamiliar with such a
uniform, I asked for identification to which they said they were not
obliged to show any and that the word "police" on their uniform was
enough for identification. Also, the fact they collected all the
identification papers from the people and took them outside was, as far
as I was concerned, not usual practice, so I followed them outside to
ensure that this police check was done properly. At this point they were
overbearing that I, a tax-paying citizen, dare check on the police and
assert that my rights (and subsequently the rights of others) are

In essence, what I am drawing your attention to is the abrasiveness and
blatant lack of professionalism that the police exhibited. Admittedly, I
have to give them that much credit that one of the officers did
eventually produce identification. However, he did so after a lengthy
argument and in a condescending manner (telling me, for instance, that I
can also certify the bar-code if I wished) and then proceeded to take
down my name and the information on my identification card (such as my
address) on a piece of paper, warning me that if anything happened to
his family he would not fail to seek me out. Such attitudes on the part
of one whose job is to serve and protect borders precariously close to
vigilantism. Furthermore, it merely reinforces the deplorable state of
public security in Hungary in where police officers are apprehensive of
showing identification, regarding those who demand they do so as
potential terrorists.

Throughout the whole incident -- including at the police station where I
made my complaint -- the police repeatedly insisted that there was
nothing wrong in how the check was carried out and that they are under
no obligation to produce identification, for a simple uniform -- without
any form of identification except for the word "police" and an insignia
on the shoulder -- is sufficient. I ask, therefore, the Interior
Ministry to look into this case to ascertain whether this is true or
not. If it isn't, then I expect appropriate steps to be taken. If, on
the other hand, what the police had told me is true, then I feel that a
change is urgently needed in order to conform Hungary's police practices
to that of the European Union, in where respect for the citizen comes
first (at least in theory). Additionally, I would like to also know if
the police have the right to take down my name and personal information
on a piece of paper just because I had asked for identification.
Finally, I would like to know why there is not a system whereby I can
make a complaint at any police station, for this incident took place
only two blocks from a local police station, and yet I had to travel
late at night to the other end of the city in order to make my

I would like to make myself perfectly clear: I have no personal grudge
against the individual officers involved, rather the institution of the
police as a whole. Indeed, I have to give the officer who eventually
gave me his name and identification number credit for having done so,
although I expect this to be a matter of course. What I am emphasising,
however, is the desperate need for more professionalism within the
police force and a change in attitude in where the police, while they
may be enforcers of the law, are not a law unto themselves.

To this extent, I expect a written apology from both the Budapest police
department (BRFK) and the Interior Ministry. What is more, I would like
to know what kind of measures will be taken in response to the threat
made by one of the officers to seek me out in case something happens to
his family, and to insure I will not become a victim of retribution
because I had made a complaint against the police -- in other words,
that I had dared to stand up for my rights and the rights of others.

I expect prompt and swift reaction to this request.

Yours sincerely,

John Horvath (Horvath Janos)

encl. Official Report of Complaint (in Hungarian)

cc.     Prime Minister's Office
	National Security Office
        Mayor Gabor Demszky, Budapest City Hall
        Budapest Local Government, District 12
        Budapest Local Government, District 8
        Andras Bencsik, journalist
        Tamas Bodoky, journalist
	Tibor Vidos, lobbyist and political consultant
	Amnesty International
        Mme Isil Gachet, Secretary of the European Commission against
                Racism and Intolerance (France)
	Geert Lovik, XS4ALL (Netherlands)
	Florian Roetzer, editor, Teleopolis (Germany)
        Greg Guma, editor, Toward Freedom (USA)
        Kerry Skyring, Blue Danube Radio (Austria)

Version: 2.6.3i
Charset: cp850

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