Bukta and Others v. Hungary, Application No. 25691/04

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SECOND SECTION CASE OF BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY (Application no. 25691/04) JUDGMENT This version was rectified on 25 September 2007 under Rule 81 of the Rules
of Court STRASBOURG17 July 2007FINAL 17/10/2007

BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT 1 In the case of Bukta and Others v. Hungary,The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a
Chamber composed of: Françoise Tulkens, President ,
András Baka,
Ireneu Cabral Barreto,
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, Antonella Mularoni, ’(); %<,#(;3 Dragoljub %&%,>3 judges,
and Sally Dollé, Section Registrar, Having deliberated in private on 26 June 2007,Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 25691/04) against the
Republic of Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
(“the Convention”) by three Hungarian nationals, Mrs Dénesné Bukta,
Mr Ferdinánd Laczner and Mr Jánosné Tölgyesi (“the applicants”), on
13 April 2004.2. The applicants were represented by Mr. L. Grespik, a lawyer
practising in Budapest. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”)
were represented by their Agent, Mr L. Hötzl, Ministry of Justice and Law
Enforcement.3. The applicants alleged that their peaceful assembly had been
disbanded by the police in breach of Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.4. On 4 September 2006 the Court decided to give notice of the
application to the Government. Under the provisions of Article 29 § 3 of the
Convention, it decided to examine the merits of the application at the same
time as its admissibility.
5. The applicants are Hungarian nationals who were born in 1943, 1945
and 1951 respectively and live in Budapest.

2BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENTA. The circumstances of the case6. The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised
as follows.7. On 1 December 2002 the Romanian Prime Minister made an official
visit to Budapest and gave a reception on the occasion of Romania’s
national day, which commemorates the 1918 Gyulafehérvár National
Assembly when the transfer of hitherto Hungarian Transylvania to Romania
was declared.8. The Hungarian Prime Minister decided to attend the reception and
made that intention public the day before the event.9. The applicants were of the opinion that the Hungarian Prime Minister
should refrain from attending the reception, given the Gyulafehérvár
National Assembly’s negative significance in Hungarian history. Therefore,
they decided to organise a demonstration in front of the Hotel Kempinski in
Budapest where the reception was to be held. They did not inform the police
of their intentions.10. In the afternoon of 1 December 2002, approximately 150 people,
including the applicants, assembled in front of the hotel. The police were
also present. There was a loud noise, whereupon the police decided to
disband the assembly, considering that it constituted a risk to the security of
the reception. The police forced the demonstrators back to a park next to the
hotel where, after a while, they dispersed.11. On 16 December 2002 the applicants sought judicial review of the
action of the police and requested the Pest Central District Court to declare
it unlawful. They asserted that the demonstration had been totally peaceful
and its only aim had been to express their opinion. Moreover, the applicants
pointed out that it had obviously been impossible to inform the police about
the assembly three days in advance, as required by Law no. III of 1989 on
the right of assembly (the “Assembly Act”), because the Prime Minister had
only announced his intention to attend the reception the day before.12. On 6 February 2003 the District Court dismissed the applicants’
action. Concerning the circumstances of the event, it noted that the
demonstration had been disbanded after a minor detonation was heard.13. The District Court also noted that the three-day time-limit for
informing the police of a planned assembly could not possibly be observed
if the demonstration had its roots in an event that had occurred less than
three days beforehand. In the court’s view, the possible shortcomings of the
Assembly Act could not be remedied by the courts. Therefore, the duty to
inform the police about such meetings applied to every type of
demonstration, including spontaneous ones. The court also noted that there
might be a need for more precise and sophisticated regulations in respect of
such events but said that this was a task for the legislator, not the courts.

BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT 3 14. The court also found that the duty to inform the police in advance
about assemblies held in public served to protect the public interest and the
rights of others, namely, the free flow of traffic and the right to freedom of
movement. It observed that the organisers of the demonstration had not even
attempted to notify the police. The District Court went on to say:“… under the relevant provisions of the domestic law in force, the fact that an
assembly is peaceful is not by itself enough to dispense with the duty to inform the
police. … The court has not dealt with the issue whether or not the assembly was
peaceful, since the lack of notification made it illegal per se and, therefore, the
defendant dissolved it lawfully, pursuant to section 14(1) of the Assembly Act.”15. The applicants appealed. On 16 October 2003 the Budapest Regional
Court upheld the first-instance decision. It amended part of the District
Court’s reasoning, omitting the remarks concerning the possible
shortcomings of the relevant domestic law. Moreover, the Regional Court
found, referring, inter alia, to the case-law of the Court and decision
no. 55/2001. (XI. 29.) of the Constitutional Court:“… in the application of the relevant domestic law, the approach is obviously
authoritative in that there is no exemption from the duty of notification and, therefore,
no difference between ‘notified’ assemblies and ‘spontaneous’ ones – the latter are
unlawful owing to the failure to respect the above-mentioned duty of notification.”16. In sum, the Regional Court found that the restrictions imposed on the
applicants were necessary and proportionate.17. The applicants lodged a petition for review which the Supreme Court
dismissed on 24 February 2004, without examining its merits, since it was
incompatible ratione materiae with the relevant provisions of the Code of
Civil Procedure.
B. Relevant domestic law
18. Article 62 of the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of
peaceful assembly and secures its free exercise.19. Section 6 of the Assembly Act requires the police to be informed of
an assembly at least three days before the date of the event.20. Section 14(1) of the Assembly Act requires the police to disband
(feloszlatja) any assemblies held without prior notification.21. Section 14(3) of the Assembly Act provides that if an assembly is
dissolved its participants may seek judicial review within fifteen days.

22. The applicants complained that their peaceful demonstration had
been disbanded merely because of a lack of prior notification, in breach of
Article 11 of the Convention, which reads in so far as relevant as follows:“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly …2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as
are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society … for the prevention
of disorder or crime, … or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. …”
A. Admissibility
23. The Court notes that the application is not manifestly ill-founded
within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. It further notes that
it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared
B. Merits1. Whether there was an interference with the exercise of freedom of
peaceful assembly
24. The Government did not dispute that the applicants could rely on the
guarantees contained in Article 11; nor did they deny that the dispersal of
the demonstration had interfered with the exercise of the applicants’ rights
under that provision. The Court sees no reason to hold otherwise. The
Government contended, however, that the interference was justified under
the second paragraph of Article 11.
2. Whether the interference was justified
25. It must therefore be determined whether the sanction complained of
was “prescribed by law”, prompted by one or more of the legitimate aims
set out in paragraph 2, and was “necessary in a democratic society” for
achieving them.
(a) “Prescribed by law”
26. There was no dispute between the parties that the restriction imposed
on the applicants’ freedom of peaceful assembly was based on section 14 of

BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT 5 the Assembly Act, the wording of which is clear. Therefore, the requirement
of foreseeability was satisfied. The Court sees no reason to depart from the
parties’ view.
(b) “Legitimate aim”
27. The applicants did not address this issue.28. The Government submitted that the restrictions on the right of
peaceful assembly on public premises served to protect the rights of others,
for example the right to freedom of movement or the orderly circulation of
traffic.29. They further submitted that freedom of peaceful assembly could not
be reduced to a mere duty on the part of the State not to interfere. On certain
occasions, positive measures had to be taken in order to ensure its
peacefulness. The three-day time-limit was therefore necessary to enable the
police, inter alia , to coordinate with other authorities, to redeploy police
forces, to secure fire brigades, and to clear vehicles. They drew attention to
the fact that if more than one organisation notified the authorities of their
intention to hold a demonstration at the same place and time, additional
negotiations might be necessary.30. In the light of these considerations, the Court is satisfied that the
measure complained of pursued the legitimate aims of preventing disorder
and protecting the rights of others.
(c) Necessary in a democratic society
31. The applicants submitted that their spontaneous demonstration had
been peaceful and was disbanded solely because the police had not had prior
notice, pursuant to section 14 of the Assembly Act. Such a measure could
not be justified by the fact that a minor detonation had been heard; to hold
otherwise would enable the police to dissolve any assembly on such
grounds, without any further justification.32. The Government submitted that the applicants’ assembly was
dispersed not because of the lack of prior notice but because of the
detonation, which the police classified as a security risk to the State officials
present at the Hotel Kempinski.33. The Court observes that paragraph 2 of Article 11 entitles States to
impose “lawful restrictions” on the exercise of the right to freedom of
assembly.34. The Court finds, in the domestic court decisions dealing with the
lawfulness of the events, that the legal basis for the dispersal of the
applicants’ assembly lay exclusively in the lack of prior notice. The courts
based their decision to declare the police measures lawful solely on that
argument and did not take into account other aspects of the case, in
particular, the peaceful nature of the event.

6BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT35. The Court reiterates that the subjection of public assemblies to a
prior-authorisation procedure does not normally encroach upon the essence
of the right (see Rassemblement Jurassien and Unité Jurassienne v.
Switzerland, no. 8191/78, Commission decision of 10 October 1979,
Decisions and Reports 17). However, in the circumstances of the present
case, the failure to inform the public sufficiently in advance of the Prime
Minister’s intention to attend the reception left the applicants with the
option of either foregoing their right to peaceful assembly altogether, or of
exercising it in defiance of the administrative requirements.36. In the Court’s view, in special circumstances when an immediate
response, in the form of a demonstration, to a political event might be
justified, a decision to disband the ensuing, peaceful assembly solely
because of the absence of the requisite prior notice, without any illegal
conduct by the participants, amounts to a disproportionate restriction on
freedom of peaceful assembly.37. In this connection, the Court notes that there is no evidence to
suggest that the applicants represented a danger to public order beyond the
level of the minor disturbance which is inevitably caused by an assembly in
a public place. The Court reiterates that, “where demonstrators do not
engage in acts of violence, it is important for the public authorities to show
a certain degree of tolerance towards peaceful gatherings if the freedom of
assembly guaranteed by Article 11 of the Convention is not to be deprived
of all substance” (see Oya Ataman v. Turkey, no. 74552/01, §§ 41-42,
ECHR 2006-XIV).38. Having regard to the foregoing considerations, the Court finds that
the dispersal of the applicants’ peaceful assembly cannot be regarded as
having been necessary in a democratic society in order to achieve the aims
pursued.39. Accordingly, there has been a violation of Article 11 of the
40. The applicants relied on Article 10 of the Convention, which
provides:“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include
freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without
interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. …2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities,
may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are
prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, … for the prevention of
disorder or crime, … [or] for the protection of the … rights of others …”

BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT 7 41. The Court considers that, in the light of its finding of a violation of
Article 11 of the Convention in the circumstances of the present case (see
paragraph 39 above), it is unnecessary to examine the applicants’ complaint
under Article 10 separately (see Ezelin v. France, 26 April 1991, § 35,
Series A no. 202).
42. Article 41 of the Convention provides:“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols
thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only
partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to
the injured party.”
A. Damage
43. Each of the applicants claimed 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of
non-pecuniary damage.44. The Government found the applicants’ claims excessive.45. The Court considers that the finding of a violation constitutes
sufficient just satisfaction for any non-pecuniary damage the applicants may
have suffered.
B. Costs and expenses
46. The applicants also claimed the global sum of EUR 2,000 for the
costs and expenses incurred before the Court.47. The Government found the applicants’ claim excessive.48. According to the Court’s case-law, an applicant is entitled to the
reimbursement of costs and expenses only in so far as it has been shown
that these have been actually and necessarily incurred and were reasonable
as to quantum. In the present case, regard being had to the information in its
possession and the above criteria, the Court considers it reasonable to award
the amount claimed, EUR 2,000, to the applicants jointly.
C. Default interest
49. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest should be
based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which
should be added three percentage points.

8BUKTA AND OTHERS v. HUNGARY JUDGMENTFOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY1. Declares the application admissible;2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 11 of the Convention;3. Holds that there is no need to examine separately the complaint under
Article 10 of the Convention;4. Holds that the finding of a violation constitutes sufficient just satisfaction
for any moral damage the applicants may have suffered;5. Holds(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, jointly, within
three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in
accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 2,000 (two
thousand euros) in respect of costs and expenses, to be converted into
the national currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the
date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable;(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until
settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate
equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during
the default period plus three percentage points;6. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 July 2007, pursuant to
Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Sally Dollé Françoise Tulkens