The history of the Hungarian Association of Prosecutors (HAP)
(Based on the published articles "Selections from the History of the Association" I-IV.
by the first HAP President Dr. Maria HAJDU)
Our association began its operations with confidence, yet between challenges.
The association of judges and prosecutors were forcibly terminated by politically motivated motion in 1949 since then prosecutors had no professional self-representation body for more than 40 years especially not one that wanted to pursue its own way – with due respect to the full organizational interests of prosecution service.
During the annual congress of the Union of the Workers of the Prosecution Service in 1989 our deceased colleague from County Békés, Tamás Tóth suggested that prosecutors professional interests should be defended by an independent public body; a Chamber that called upon to represent the professional interests of prosecutors for the existing Union was primarily designed to deal with only existential interests of its members. The proposal was attractive to many people. After several exchanges it soon turned out that such a chamber for prosecutors did not fit the current legislation. So we had to look for other avenues.
About the same time, the Parliament enacted the Act 2of 1989 on the right of association (1989:II.tv, hereinafter: Etv) too), which secured the right for citizens, prosecutors included to set up organizations to achieve their common legitimate goals. The organizing work with "feverish pace" began and even some of the leaders of the prosecution service were supportive.
The documents named ‘Draft concept of the association's formation entitled' dated 21 February 1990 consisted the following selected paragraphs:
"The judges and prosecutors formed an association to protect their interests in 1907 which operated until 1949. Currently, we are also working on setting up such an association. We consider the reasons of creation are still the same that had been in 1907. Namely: "... general aspiration of these times supports the establishment of the associations. It is necessary so that individuals’ moral weights could be concentrated and enforced through such an organization to let their voice to be heard in areas where not even questions had been addressed to them earlier, not when their most vibrant interests had been at stake.”
The purpose of our future association still stands or should stand the same. We would like to raise the attention of all those who form official opinion or decide on our future without proper knowledge of the nature of the profession of the prosecutors, that the situation is untenable, marginalising of the whole class of professionals has harmful consequences.
It should be essential for such an association to help elevating the appreciation of the prosecutors both professionally and morally for this is the only way how prosecutors1 professional commitments achieve social esteem and rank.
To achieve all these, we recommend the following main issues:
1. Full compliance with legal duties of prosecutors the association should express the need that the principle of prosecutorial independence shall be part of the highest-level legislation.
2. Our association shall be eligible to receive and to comment relevant draft legislation in advance. Sound legislation is unthinkable without proper knowledge of the practice of law.
3. The draft Decrees issued by the Prosecutor General's Office to organise the work of the prosecutors should also be part of the prior discussion with the association so that the public comment could in due time communicated and be taken into account into the final version of the internal manuals.
4. Developing a Code of Ethics for prosecutors and safeguarding over its enforcement.
5. Appointments or promotions of prosecutors should incorporate the process in which the association's opinions are sought.
6. A professional career system including some automatism is to be established within the prosecution service. Appointment to higher rank or service post in the hierarchy shall be preceded by some specified service time at a lower level of the organisation.
7. Appeals against the assessments by superiors should be allowed. In such a case, the association should be consulted in advance.
8. In case of disciplinary procedure brought against the prosecutor, the association shall be consulted before the final decision.
9. The association is expected to take initiatives for high-quality professional trainings, follow-up education as well as to encourage the development of the professional skills of prosecutors. Especially it may help with organization of trainings, publishing tenders of i.e. writing articles with specific mandate. The Prosecutor General's Office is requested to ensure opportunities in its periodical, the Public Prosecution Bulletin for this activity in a separate chapter, to set up professional training when justified, and consider establishing working arrangement with the administration of courts with regard to joint trainings.
10. The individual interests of the prosecutors shall also be safeguarded by the association to an extent. In doing so, the association as a body could respond to unsubstantiated attacks in the press or elsewhere in connection with the activities of its members so that this is done at least as publicly as it has been done. "
On 26 February 1990 the Pest County Prosecutor's Office conference room 1-2 of 9 inhabitants representatives of county public prosecutors coming year.
On 26 February, 1990, representatives of Prosecutor’s Offices from 9 County assembled in the conference room of Pest County Chief Prosecutor’s Office with the aim of establishing a Prosecutor’s Association. At the same time, representatives of the Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office assembled eitheir to establish a separate Association for the prosecutors working in the Prosecutor’s Offices of Budapest.
Fortunately, representatives of the 9 county reconsidered their aim and decided to join the meeting at Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office. They proposed to establish one Association for the Prosecution Service together. All the participants agreed that the aims and professional interests of the prosecutors are the same. There was no debate. In an hour the participants of the meeting established the Hungarian Association of Prosecutors, adopted its provisional Constitution and elected its first officials.
The provisional Constitution contained only the mandatory regulations that were necessary for the registration of the Associatioan. The mandate of the elected officals lasted until the first Assembly of Delegates. A committee was set up to draft the final Constitution of the Association.
The newly established Hungarian Association of Prosecutors had only 36 members. On 14 March, 1990, the Metropolitan Court registered the Association under number 1488.
The number of the members increased day by day, and the elected official were advised that new divisons of the Association had been set up at the County Chief Prosecutor’s Offices, managing boards and delegates of these divisions had been elected.
The first Assembly of the delegates took place on 25 April, 1990 in the Conference Room of the Supreme Court. Not only the delegates were present, the Conference Room was crowded with people showing interest in the activity and goals of the Association.
Mihály Tóth, Chair of the Assembly opened the meeting with the following: „ This is a historic moment. The Association of the Prosecution Service has been set up for the second time in the history of the Hungarian justice.” Mihály Tóth quoted thoughts from the speech delivered by the former association’s first president, Károly Grecsák at the inaugural session of the former Association in 1907, that were relevant even in 1990.
The task of the Delegates’ Assembly was to adopt the final version of the Constitution, to elect the officals and to set up the committees of the Association.
Every article, paragraph and word of the draft of the final constitution was subject of a detailed debate.
The main issues were the following:
The delegate of Heves County proposed that the Constitution should have a preamble in which the political independency and the self-governing characters of the Association are declared and the main goal of the Association is layed down. Finally, the great majority of the delegates adopted this proposal.
The issue whether the association should be only a professional body or should represent the social interests of the members and help their scientific, cultural and sport activities was subject of heated debate.
Afterwards in the late evening hours the Assembly elected its officials and committees.
Mária Hajdú (Budapest Chief Prosecutor’s Office) was elected as the President of the Association, András Hegedűs (Pest County Prosecutor’s Office) as the Executive Secretary and Gábor Molnár (Office of the Prosecutor’s General) as the Economic Secretary.
The following work of the Association has been pervading by ideas formulated in closing remarks of the elected president:
“I could promise a lot of things right now, but it is unnecessary. Only one thing I can promise on my partner executive’s behalf to you: we try effectively to complete the task entrusted to us with the help of all the members. Do not let the Association fail! In every action all the members have to focus on our Association. We have to help it to give forth for our benefit.
Although we have decided that the Association represents its members, but we have to strengthen the prosecution service because we are well implanted in it. I think that those colleagues who, for the time being, or never will be members of the Association, will not resent, if the Association members take actions in order to protect, help and fight for their interests too."
Then difficult years came with successes and failures.
For nearly ten years’ history in retrospect, the palette is very diverse. The part of decisions were followed by action, while other plans never became reality, either because the target became untimely, or because it has "no stage" to be achieved. Later there were plenty of work. Sometimes unexpected events enforced the action or offered a favorable solution. The Association’s Board and officials were expected to form the purposes and programs and find ways of executions. We survived very difficult years, and not only as prosecutors. The first years of the Association coincided with the change of the Hungarian political regime, and these effects we could not, and did not want to withdraw from ourselves.
The Association held the first Board meeting in May 1990, when - after a very heated debate - it became clear that, in the given circumstances the basic and primary task is to protect effectively our professional interests to which the conditions weren't in place. The Association neither in the prosecution service, nor outside is not yet "marked". So we had to fight for it! We had to find the answer forums at a time when the Association was not even asked. Inside the prosecution service our approval was fortunately very quickly solved, but we needed two or three years of hard work until other important state bodies accept our existing. Eventually it managed to reach the prior permission of the legislation has been sent to the Association, and we could take part in debate of Constitutional Commission, where our opinion in important issues was adopted. However, Sun is not shining every time...! Representation means not only to express our opinion. Knowing the difficult situation of the administration of Justice at the time we were looking for other social organizations and bodies linked to this area hoping for improving the situation with mutual mind.
Members of the Association interpreted protection of interest very widely. So they considered supporting not only professional and existential questions, but the educational, scientific, sport and cultural activities. The work here set out as well.