Since 1976, the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF), initially Committee for Human Rights in Rumania, has monitored the human rights conditions of 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians who live as minorities in Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine, who collectively comprise the largest national minority in Central Europe. HHRF is the only professional organization in the West devoted to the rights of these communities.
Since the 1989 downfall of communism, HHRF has mobilized Western support for the positive initiatives and aspirations of Hungarian minority communities to rebuild civil society, to promote economic self-reliance, and to restore in the contemporary context their centuries-old traditions of educational and cultural excellence.
Relying on well-developed sources in the region, the award-winning Foundation serves as a clearinghouse of information for Western governments, human rights organizations, the media and the general public. A private, independent and not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, HHRF operates from its New York headquarters and maintains offices in Budapest and Kolozsvár (Cluj), Romania, in addition to representatives around the world.
Hungarian minorities still face an uphill struggle to regain linguistic, cultural and educational rights so long denied them.
The Foundation provides services in five primary areas, listed below.
Monitoring, research and analysis: HHRF regularly collects, translates, analyzes and disseminates reliable studies and reports on the human rights condition of minority communities in the aforementioned countries.
For the past 20 years, HHRF has vigorously advocated for the return of 2,140 Hungarian church and community properties illegally confiscated under communism in Romania and still not restored, in full, to their rightful owners. For the seventh year, HHRF continues to regularly consult with the State Departments special envoy for restitution matters. HHRF maintained its Property Restitution Working Group, which it initiated in January 2004, with regular conferences via computer. A database on the Foundations website contains the details and status of confiscated properties.
Since 2006, HHRF closely monitors and reports on the declining human rights situation in Slovakia with a particular focus on deteriorating language and educational rights, incidents of violence and vandalism against minorities, and failures to implement the rule of law.
Publications, lectures and information services: The Foundation regularly updates the human rights community on recent developments in Rumania, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine. As additional means of increasing awareness regarding these little-known subjects, HHRF organizes North American lecture tours for leaders of minority communities from East Central Europe, and sponsors weekend Human Rights Workshops in various U.S. venues, as well as for young leaders in Central Europe.
To date, HHRF has published twelve books in English, Hungarian and Rumanian, and served as a source for media agencies and other human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Minority Rights Group, International Human Rights Law Group, UN Commission on Human Rights, International Labour Organization, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.
Since 1990, HHRF has organized numerous visits to the U.S. and Canada for leaders of organizations representing Hungarian minority communities.
Representation at domestic and international forums: Through personal appearance and written submissions, HHRF regularly participates in domestic and international human rights conferences and meetings, either as witnesses invited to testify, as accredited Non-Governmental Organization representatives or as Public Members of official delegations.
From 1976 until 1986, HHRF presented more than 1,000 pages of written testimony and testified orally on 27 separate occasions before U.S. Congressional committees, in addition to numerous presentations at Congressional Human Rights briefings, documenting the Rumanian regime’s non-compliance with human rights norms. The culmination to this period of HHRF’s efforts occurred in 1987, when the Congress voted on four separate occasions to suspend Rumania’s Most-Favored-Nation status, granted in 1975 as a reward for Ceausescu’s alleged independence from Moscow.
Since 1980, HHRF represented the plight of Hungarian minorities at nine Helsinki Final Act Follow-Up Meetings, disseminating information and organizing press conferences, receptions and demonstrations.
Support for minority cultures and civil society: HHRF conducts occasional fundraising efforts to assist selected cultural and educational institutions to serve their aim of identity maintenance and cultivation. Since 1990, the Foundation has forwarded over $150,000 to more than ten initiatives in East Central Europe.
In 2008, HHRF helped Sapientia University in Transylvania, Romania reach its fundraising goal of $22,000. The latest campaign for this young, independent Hungarian-language university insures that students have continued access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment at the Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely) Campus.
Human Rights Internship and Exchange Program: Since 1984, this HHRF program has provided the opportunity for 59 interns from around the world to gain proficiency in international minority rights protection. Interns spend 3-6 months in the Budapest office before spending 6-12 months at the Foundation headquarters in New York. Following their training, interns return to their native countries and apply their experience on behalf of their communities in various fields.
Since October 2008, HHRF has hosted a year-long intern in New York through a cooperative effort with the Hungarian American Enterprise Scholarship Fund (HAESF).