Post Office Box J, Gracie Station
New York, NY 10028
(212) 996-6268 (Fax)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org HHRF logo
The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation
Aspirations and Accomplishments
The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF), initially Committee for Human Rights in Rumania, was formed in 1976 by young Hungarian-Americans to alert the public opinion and political leadership of the United States and other Western countries to the gross human rights violations against national minorities in Rumania. In 1984, the Foundation expanded its efforts to working on behalf of the 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians who live as minorities in Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine, as well as in Rumania, and who collectively comprise the largest national minority in Central Europe.
Relying on well-developed sources in the region, the 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), in addition to representatives in Washington, Brussels, several US cities, Canada and Europe.
The Foundation was at the forefront of the West's mounting concern and activity regarding the systematic campaigns of forced assimilation against minorities by the former communist regimes. These policies included inciting anti-Hungarian hostilities; prohibiting the use of the Hungarian language; eliminating Hungarian-language educational, publishing and cultural institutions; forced population transfers; and the murder, imprisonment and exile of leading ethnic Hungarian dissidents.
Since 1989, Hungarian minorities still face an uphill struggle to regain linguistic, cultural and educational rights so long denied them. In some countries the legacies of intolerance against national minorities remain, and governments have colluded with neo-fascist organizations which openly incite majority populations against minorities. The November 1996 Rumanian national elections, however, brought the ethnic Hungarian party into the governing coalition — a historic first in the region — prompting HHRF to undertake initiatives to promote the new government's foreign policy aims as it accelerates the process of domestic reform. Most recently, the peoples of Slovakia rejected the Meciar-led government, and a new four-party coalition, also including the Hungarian Coalition Party, was formed in October 1998.
The Foundation provides services in four primary areas:
1. Monitoring, Research and Analysis.
HHRF regularly collects, translates, analyzes and disseminates reliable studies and reports on the human rights condition of minority communities in Rumania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The organization maintains extensive files and a computerized information database, with on-site input occurring in Hungary and Rumania. This database forms the backbone of the Foundation's World Wide Web site (http://www.hhrf.org) which also provides an information outlet for major ethnic Hungarian organizations and newspapers in the affected countries. Frequent personal contact and fact-finding missions insure the ongoing timeliness and accuracy of data.
2. 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.
* To date, HHRF has published twelve books in English, Hungarian and Rumanian, and served as a source for numerous other organizations, including Amnesty International, US Helsinki Watch, Freedom House, the Minority Rights Group, the International Human Rights Law Group, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Council of Europe.
* In March 1990, HHRF organized the three-week North American visit of Bishop László Tökés, the ethnic Hungarian Reformed minister whose defiance of the Ceaucsescu regime sparked the December 1989 revolution in Rumania. The visit included meetings with President George Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and leading government, church and civic leaders in the U.S. and Canada. In June 1990, the organization assisted the preeminent Transylvanian- Hungarian playwright András Sütô — blinded in one eye by beatings suffered during an outbreak of anti-Hungarian violence in Marosvásárhely in March 1990 — in meetings at the White House, the Congress and with various journalists and Hungarian-American groups. In 1991-1995, HHRF made similar arrangements for visits to Washington and New York by Géza Domokos and Bishop László Tökés, then-President and Honorary President, respectively, of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania; András Ágoston, President of the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Voivodina. In July 1995, HHRF organized the Washington visit of the Presidents of the three parties forming the Hungarian Coalition in the Parliament of Slovakia: Béla Bugár (Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement), Miklós Duray (Coexistence Political Movement) and László Á. Nagy (Hungarian Civic Party). An April 1997 visit by Senator Béla Markó, President of the ethinc Hungarian party which is now a member of Rumania's three-party governing coalition, involved 39 meetings with U.S. Senators and Members of Congress, White House and State Department officials, and representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
* HHRF has organized a total of 12 demonstrations since 1976, including a 17-country 36-city worldwide demonstration on November 15, 1988, protesting Ceausescu's plan to demolish 7,000, or more than half of Rumania's 13,000 villages.
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 US delegations.
* From 1976 until 1986, HHRF presented more than 1,000 pages of written testimony and testified orally on 27 separate occasions before US 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 has represented the plight of Hungarian minorities at nine relevant Helsinki Final Act Follow-Up Meetings, disseminating information and organizing press conferences, receptions and demonstrations. In June 1991 HHRF's president served as a Public Member of the U.S. Delegation to the CSCE Geneva Review Meeting on National Minorities.
* From August 26-28, 1992, HHRF's president attended the London Conference on former Yugoslavia as a delegate and advisor to András Ágoston, President of the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Voivodina.
Samizdat and Dissident Assistance; Relief Funds.
HHRF provides financial and technical support to proven human rights monitoring and news reporting services on Hungarian minorities in Central Europe. The Foundation sends food and medicine parcels, and supports endangered minority cultures, focusing in both cases on the regions (Transylvania in Rumania, Vojvodina in Serbia, and Slovakia) where the minority communities are subjected to the greatest pressure.
* HHRF translated and disseminated primary Hungarian-language samizdat documents from Rumania and Czechoslovakia, including the protest letters of Károly Király to the Rumanian leadership in the 1970s; all issues of Ellenpontok (Counterpoints), the only underground publication to appear regularly in any language under the Ceausescu dictatorship; and more than 500 news releases of the Hungarian Press of Transylvania, which operated clandestinely from 1983 until 1990.
The Foundation maintains five permanent funds:
1. General Operating Fund
Donations to the General Operating Fund support the Foundation's four major programs: Monitoring, Research and Analysis; Publications, Lectures and Information Services; Representation at Domestic and International Forums; and Samizdat and Dissident Assistance. A major Foundation project over the past two years has been the establishment of a worldwide computer network over the Internet to facilitate the rapid exchange and dissemination of information on Hungarian minorities.
2. HHRF Bornemisza Fund
This permanent endowment was established in 1986 through the generous offer of matching support by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, renowned art collector, European industrialist and a Foundation director, in order to place the Foundation on a sound financial footing.
3. Transylvania Relief Fund
Since November 1987, HHRF maintains an ongoing Transylvania Relief Fund through a well-established, initially clandestine network in Hungary and Rumania, providing food, clothing and medicine parcels directly to families in need. In 1990 the Foundation arranged the shipment to Rumania of ten tons of hospital equipment and medical supplies, and has since sent several dozen crates of dental equipment. In 1990 HHRF collected $38,564, given for medical care and support to András Sütô blinded in one eye at the hands of Rumanian extremists. Since 1989, the Foundation has also supported endangered minority cultural activities, through the collection and forwarding of funds to various targeted undertakings, including a minority journalism and publishing center in Kolozsvár ($50,000), a multi-lingual publishing house (Kriterion Foundation, $20,000), the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the first Hungarian theater (Hungarian Theater of Kolozsvár, $6,355), Hungarian literary journals throughout the region (Apáczai Sajtóhíd Alapítvány, $7,315) and assistance to the threatened Hungarian minority in Serbia (Democratic Community of Hungarians in Voivodina, $5,383).
4. Attila Kertész Scholarship Fund
This Fund supports young Hungarian interns in HHRF's New York office, who gain first-hand experience in representing the human rights concerns of Hungarian minorities. Since 1986 twenty-one interns from around the world have participated in this program, including seven individuals from East Central Europe since 1990.
5. HHRF Higher Education Fund
Established in 1993 by a generous contribution from one the Foundation's main supporters, this fund supports the cause of minority-language education. Through the "Adopt a Student in Transylvania' program operated in conjunction with the Collegium Transsylvanicum Foundation, scholarships totalling $13,470 to date have been provided to deserving Hungarian university students in Kolozsvár.