Hungary’s parliament has passed a new law saying the country’s army could now shoot at refugees with rubber bullets and tear gas grenades, so-called non-lethal weapons for self-defence.
“This law meets all constitutional requirements,” said Hungary’s defence minister István Simicskó. “The government decree limits the new military task to the migrant crisis. The soldiers can fulfill their duty with weapons but they may only use arms in self-defense and to defend other soldiers, in any other situation they must use other measures and tools.”
Opposition parties criticised the law in the debate in parliament before the vote.
“This proposal is unsuitable because it is against the constitution and because it does not make a clear legal situation for the soldiers and it is all the more dangerous that the soldiers and policemen will do their work in legal uncertainty, so no honest MP can support it,” opposition Socialist MP Tamas Harangozo said.
The Helsinki Committee, a rights group in Budapest, said the law was an unnecessary act likely to stir tensions.
“Simply, that Hungary is being under siege by refugees is the idea that is actually behind these set of measures, both behind the fence, both behind the deployment of already several thousands of police officers and now already army along the border, and the set of laws that is going to be adopted in parliament today will certainly also make this point that ‘we can have no other solution to this but one that requires the force of the military and also of the police, so there is no other option to deal with refugees.’ I think this is extremely dangerous, it certainly is very false” Helsinki co-chair Marta Pardavi said.
“Hungary is not in war, Hungary is not at war with refugees. There is not armed conflict neither at the Hungarian border nor in country, but nevertheless the army will have the powers to prevent the escalation, of for example riots at the border by using firearms, and will also be allowed to cause bodily injuries that are not fatal,” she added.
“Let’s restore the border guards,” said Gabor Vona, head of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, which has advocated even tougher measures. “It is not a good thing that policemen and soldiers guard the borders, if we need a long term solution let’s create an authority whose task is to guard the borders.”
Amnesty calls for repealing of laws
Amnesty International said Hungary is violating refugees’ human rights by blocking their access to a meaningful asylum procedure.
The human rights group has called for the repealing of laws it said are designed to shift Hungary’s responsibility towards those in need of international protection.
Read more: Hungary violates human rights of refugees