Accessibility links

Breaking News

Watchdog

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leaves at the end of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels on June 25.

European Union leaders say they have told Hungary to respect LGBT rights or leave the bloc, as tempers flared in a confrontation with Prime Minister Viktor Orban over his country's new law banning schools from using materials that could be seen as promoting homosexuality.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters on June 25 that several of his counterparts clashed personally with Orban over the law during the bloc's two-day summit.

"It was really forceful, a deep feeling that this could not be. It was about our values; this is what we stand for," Rutte said of the rancor at the meeting.

The proposed legal changes, which must still be approved by Hungary's president, ban the "display and promotion of homosexuality" or gender change to minors in schools, films, or advertisements.

The issue has turned a harsh spotlight on the EU's inability to rein in the "illiberal democracies" among its ranks like Hungary and Poland, whose deeply conservative, nationalist, and anti-migrant governments have flouted the bloc's democratic standards and values for years.

Only Poland and Slovenia are said to have supported Orban over the law.

"I said, 'Stop this, you must withdraw the law and, if you don't like that and really say that the European values are not your values, then you must think about whether to remain in the European Union,'" said French President Emmanuel Macron, who called it a battle over civilization and culture.

He later pulled back a bit from his comments, saying he was not in favor of kicking Hungary out of the bloc, calling it an "existential question for Europeans."

Ahead of the summit, leaders from 17 of the bloc's 27 members signed a letter deploring any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying that "respect and tolerance are at the core of the European project."

While the letter didn't explicitly mention Hungary, its target was thinly veiled.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used unusually harsh language, calling the law "shameful" and said the EU's executive is considering legal action because it violates the bloc's fundamental values.

Orban has fought back at his critics, saying the law isn't against homosexuality, it's about letting parents decide exclusively how they wish to sexually educate their children.

When asked on June 24 if he would revoke the bill, the conservative Hungarian leader dismissed the criticism and said the law was "done."

The clash with the EU is the latest for Orban, who presents himself as a defender of what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism to bolster support from his base.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, the only openly gay prime minister at the meeting, said Budapest should also be subject to an as-yet-untested procedure to cut EU funding for those who violate democratic rules.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
Bakhtovar Jumaev (file photo)

Bakhtovar Jumaev, a Moscow-based Tajik lawyer, says officials in Tajikistan have opened a case against him for inciting "extremist activity."

Jumaev told RFE/RL on June 25 that the Panjakent Organized Crime Department summoned his father a day earlier to inform him that they had opened the proceedings.

"I told him that my son was neither an extremist nor a terrorist, and that the accusations against him were slanderous," Jumaev's father said.

The Panjakent police department did not respond to calls from RFE/RL for comment.

Jumaev said earlier this month that officials told his family they should demand his return to Tajikistan.

After the warning, Jumaev left Russia for a third country. Without disclosing details, Jumaev said he had received information that Russian officials were planning to detain and deport him to Tajikistan.

Several Tajik activists in Russia say their relatives in Tajikistan are being targeted by the government in an effort to silence and threaten its critics abroad.

At least 15 Tajik activists have disappeared in Russia since 2015, human rights activists say. Some of them have reappeared in Tajikistan -- often in jails, facing dubious charges ranging from fraud to extremism. The whereabouts of others remain unknown.

Jumaev is a colleague of Izzat Amon, the head of the Center for Tajiks in Moscow, who was charged with fraud after his forced return to Dushanbe from Moscow in March.

Amon faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty. His supporters dismiss the charges as politically motivated.

Amon's nonprofit organization in Moscow has helped Tajik migrant workers find jobs, obtain work and residency permits, and get legal advice.

Load more

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

Subscribe

Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More

XS
SM
MD
LG