Dear Minister of Public Administration and Justice Dr. Tibor Navracsics,
We, the international women and human rights signatory organisations below are writing to you regarding our esteemed colleague, dr. Ágnes Geréb, who is due to face further criminal charges in a Hungarian court on December 6th. We are greatly concerned that dr. Geréb will face the same discriminatory circumstances as experienced at her previous trial and which we believe will prevent her receiving a fair trial.
We are concerned that no midwives will be registered on the court expert list and cannot therefore be called as expert witnesses; that the court will only use experts who are maternity hospital doctors with no direct experience of home birth; that international home birth experts may be disallowed from providing expert opinion before the court; that hospital based experts will continue to be allowed to claim that home birth is dangerous; that where hospital doctors opinions are sought they should have the necessary obstetrics qualifications; that the court will refer only to hospital protocols in evaluating dr. Geréb’s birth actions when in fact home birth protocols should have pre-eminence in these cases.
We also call on you and your government colleagues to recognise that dr. Geréb or any other Hungarian midwife should not have to face criminal charges when defending their birth actions. Enlightened member states of the European Union have for some time now rejected the Hungarian way of processing charges of midwifery negligence through the criminal code system and instead they use the services of professional midwifery investigation committees. Hungary must do likewise through the early introduction of legislative changes; afterall, Hungarian hospital maternity doctors involved in similar birth incidents nearly always avoid criminal processing, so why then are fully licenced midwives denied similar equitable treatment?
Equally, why is it necessary for Hungary’s foremost defender of women’s rights to be imprisoned under such severe house arrest conditions for more than 770 days without trial? Why is it considered right to imprison a midwife in this extreme way when she has always acted ethically and with the sole motivation and intention of helping birthing mothers and their babies? Is it not a disturbing fact that dr. Geréb will face criminal charges on December 6th in 3 birth cases despite the fact that all 3 mothers involved are fully supportive of dr. Geréb and her birth actions? That in the 4th case the prosecutor will cite 200 parents even though they too fully support dr. Geréb? Does this not raise the question, yet again, as to why exactly dr. Geréb needs to be treated in this uniquely aggressive, evidently unjust and discriminatory manner by the State?
As you know Minister, as recently as October 8th, Hungarian President János Áder publically acknowledged the contribution dr. Geréb has made towards expanding the rights of birthing women and in the development of homebirth in Hungary. Surely then, this is an opportunity for you as Deputy Prime Minister and for your government colleagues to recognise her valued place in Hungarian life too and to echo the further sentiments of your President’s praise for justice and lawfulness. We would therefore ask you to use your power as Minister for Justice to urgently review this case and to closely monitor the upcoming trial.
Endorsed by the following organizations:
Frontline Defenders, Dublin, Ireland
Center for Women’s Global Leadership, New Jersey, USA
INFORM Human Rights, Colombo, Sri Lanka
MADRE Women’s Human Rights, New York, USA
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, San Francisco, USA
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, Manila, Philippines