The Government of Hungary does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government increased its conviction rate for trafficking offenders but remained hampered by a legal system that requires proof of buying and selling of the victim. In 2012, the government amended general victim assistance legislation to ensure that trafficking victims received support, including access to shelter, regardless of their participation in a criminal case. Also in 2012, the government issued a decree introducing a formalized national-level victim identification protocol. During the reporting period, the government increased shelter capacity by providing funding to an additional NGO. Overall, however, the government continued to offer limited assistance to trafficking victims. NGOs continued to report that some victims who refused to testify against their traffickers were vulnerable to being charged and detained by police for committing a crime against sexual morals. Experts reported that the Hungarian government did not proactively address trafficking occurring within the country, and officials continued to treat children in prostitution as perpetrators—as opposed to victims of trafficking. Serious misunderstandings of child sex trafficking continued to hamper the government’s ability to effectively address Hungary’s trafficking problem.
Recommendations for Hungary: Continue to further expand shelter capacity in Hungary and ensure consistent funding for NGOs providing victim care; bolster protection for trafficking victims who face serious harm and retribution from their traffickers, including by developing longer-term care options to improve their reintegration in Hungary; provide specialized training for social workers to facilitate reintegration assistance for these victims; expand jurisdiction of the specialized anti-trafficking police unit to investigate local, domestic cases of trafficking without an international link; develop stand-alone procedures based on the new identification degree for authorities to increase detection of trafficking victims exploited within Hungary, including among Roma and local children in prostitution; issue guidance for local police to ensure children in prostitution are not treated as offenders and punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; take steps to increase incentives for victims’ voluntary cooperation with law enforcement; ensure that the Hungarian anti-trafficking law is fully harmonized with the definition of trafficking under the EU Directive 2011/36/EU by more precisely defining exploitation (including child prostitution, forced prostitution, forced labor, begging, and the exploitation of criminal activities), by ensuring that buying and selling and the transactional basis for trafficking is not required, and by ensuring that means are required to prove an act of adult trafficking; and consider appointing specialized prosecutors and judges to litigate trafficking cases.
The Hungarian government made progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2012. During the year, authorities continued to investigate trafficking cases and increased convictions for trafficking offenders. Hungary prohibits all forms of trafficking through Sections 175/B of its current criminal code, but the law is both overbroad because it does not require coercive means to prove the basic offense of trafficking in persons, and is too narrow because the courts have interpreted it to require evidence that the victim was bought or sold. Prescribed penalties range from one to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Officials recognize that the narrow judicial interpretation has created overly strict evidentiary requirements for prosecutors to prove the crime of human trafficking—specifically with regards to the transaction requirement and a Supreme Court case requires evidence of direct or recently committed violence. The new Criminal Code adopted by Parliament in June 2012 amended counter-trafficking provisions, effective July 1, 2013. The new regulations introduced an explicit offence for forced labor and raised the maximum sentences for aggravated trafficking acts. However, the new law fails to fully comport with the definition of human trafficking in the EU Directive 2011/36/EU by including the necessary elements of exploitation, such as forced prostitution, child prostitution, or begging. In 2012, police investigated the same number of trafficking cases as in 2011, initiating 18 new investigations. The number of prosecutions, however, declined from 29 cases in 2011 to 12 cases in 2012. Courts convicted 18 trafficking offenders in six trafficking cases in 2012, a significant increase from eight convicted offenders in 2011. In November 2012, a court sentenced two convicted offenders, respectively, to two years’ imprisonment suspended for five years and an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years for sex trafficking of a 16 year old child. Despite the young age of the victim, these convicted offenders received no time in jail. The remaining 16 sentences ranged from one year and six months to seven years’ and six months’ imprisonment, in comparison to penalties from a one-year suspended sentence to nine years’ imprisonment in 2011. NGOs continued to report that police often failed to investigate trafficking cases that involved Roma or other domestic victims. During the year, the government reduced the number of police investigators in the specialized anti-trafficking unit by five officers, bringing the total number to 11. This specialized unit is charged only with investigation of trafficking crimes that involve organized crime or international elements. In 2012, Hungarian authorities conducted training for 50 police officers on victim protection and identification. The Hungarian government did not report the investigation or prosecution of any public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during 2012. During the year, however, NGOs continued to report concerns about trafficking-related complicity, including victim testimonials indicating traffickers’ connections with officials. Furthermore, a previous research report based on interviews with survivors of sex trafficking contained strong indications of government officials’ complicity, including reports of officers physically abusing and humiliating trafficking victims and not taking action when victims disclosed the names of their pimps.