On February 24, 2014 the Court of Budapest ruled that the municipality of the 14th district of Budapest acted illegally when it destroyed the shacks and other possessions of homeless people on October 18, 2011 (see the photos of the destruction here). When the authorities started to destroy the huts, many inhabitants were not at home, so they were not able to save any of their belongings. Those who were there were forced to witness the destruction of their homes.
At the time, the six plaintiffs had lived in these self-built shacks for as long as 6-8 years. Even though their homes had been constructed illegally, the owner of the land (the Hungarian Railroad Company) had never initiated any action against them. The day before the destruction of the shacks, the local municipality signed a rental contract with the company in order to carry out „cleaning activities.” Apparently, this was an attempt by the municipality to create an appearance of legality. However, the municipality did not properly notify the inhabitants about the impending eviction nor did they produce any legal documents authorizing such action on the premises.
A few months after the destruction of their homes, the plaintiffs – with the help of The City for All and the National and Ethnical Minority Legal Defense Office – sued the municipality for destroying their homes and possessions without any legal procedures, thus violating their right to equal treatment, a fair procedure and human dignity.
After five hearings between October 2012 and February 2014, the Court finally ruled that the municipality did in fact violate the personal rights of the plaintiffs, including their right to human dignity, and it also violated its obligation to equal treatment by destroying the shacks without appropriate prior notification. The Court ordered the municipality to pay the equivalent of about €1600 to each plaintiff as compensation, plus interest since the date of the eviction. In addition, the court obliged the municipality to apologize to each plaintiff in writing.
As the first decision in the history of Hungarian law regarding the destruction of self-built shacks, this case has historic significance. According to Erika Muhi, the legal representative of the homeless plaintiffs, this decision sends a clear message to all local authorities: „they cannot do anything they want” to homeless people. The decision is not legally binding as the municipality has 15 days to file an appeal.
(Thank you to Boróka Fehér for a first draft of this text.)