The New Hungarian Guard (Új Magyar Gárda) and the For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense (Szebb Jövőért Magyar Önvédelem) are closely related radical-nationalist paramilitary organizations that operate primarily in rural Hungary with the explicit objective of combating “Gypsy crime.”
The New Hungarian Guard and the For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense espouse an overtly anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti–European Union and anti-West political agenda.
These organizations have become largely inactive since the deradicalization of the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) party in 2014. However, some of those who attended the first meeting of the László Toroczkai–led Jobbik splinter party Our Homeland (Mi Hazánk) in June 2018 appeared in New Hungarian Guard uniforms (source in Hungarian).
Former Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) Captain Róbert Kiss and a group of 100 followers established the New Hungarian Guard paramilitary organization in the town of Dabas, about 10 kilometers south of Budapest, on July 25, 2009, three weeks after the legal dissolution and banning of the Hungarian Guard (source in Hungarian).
The New Hungarian Guard is a precise reincarnation of the original Hungarian Guard in both its black and white uniform and its radical-nationalist ideology. The leader of the New Hungarian Guard is Captain István Mészáros
Békés County New Hungarian Guard Captain Attila Tibor László founded the organization’s security-patrol unit, the For a Better Future Civil Guard (Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület), as a separate legal entity in the town of Békéscsaba (southeastern Hungary) in the spring of 2010. The For a Better Future Civil Guard changed its name in January 2013 to For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense (source in Hungarian).
Membership and Activity
The New Hungarian Guard and the largely overlapping For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense have estimated total membership of under a thousand (source in English), though the New Hungarian Guard launched a new recruitment campaign to mark the sixth anniversary of the foundation of the original Hungarian Guard in the summer of 2013, initiating about 130 new members at ceremonies in the village of Akasztó and Budapest in August of that year (source in English and source in Hungarian).
The New Hungarian Guard and the For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense carried out regular propaganda activity throughout Hungary in the years 2009–2014, though primarily in rural areas with large Gypsy populations. The organizations also conducted occasional vigilante patrols of Gypsy-inhabited sections of towns and villages, most prominently in Gyöngyöspata (population 2,500, northern Hungary) and Hajdúhadház (eastern Hungary, population 10,500) in the spring of 2011 and at the Avas Housing Estate in the city of Miskolc (population 168,000, northwestern Hungary) in October and November of 2012.
Relations with Jobbik
Unlike the Hungarian Guard, the New Hungarian Guard and For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense maintain no formal links to Jobbik. However, the paramilitary organizations and the party actively supported one another until 2014, particularly in their common agenda of fighting “Gypsy crime.” The New Hungarian Guard, For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense and Jobbik cooperated closely in launching the anti-Gypsy vigilante patrols of Gyöngyöspata, Hajdúhadház and the Avas Housing Estate in Miskolc in 2011 and 2012.
Former Jobbik President Gábor Vona presided over the induction of New Hungarian Guard members at an abandoned football field in Akasztó in August 2013 (see Uniform Disorder).
On February 5, 2014, Jobbik announced that New Hungarian Guard Captain István Mészáros would stand as one of the party’s candidates for National Assembly from Bács-Kiskun County in south-central Hungary in the impending general election; furthermore, Mészáros would fill the 55th position on Jobbik’s national party list for the election (source in Hungarian). However, Mészáros lost the election in the individual electoral-district in Bács-Kiskun County and failed to earn a seat in the National Assembly via the Jobbik party list (source in Hungarian).
New Hungarian Guard
On April 12, 2011, the Szarvas District Court (southeastern Hungary) sentenced New Hungarian Guard Békés County Captain Attila Tibor László to one year probation for supervising the activities of a banned organization in violation of Hungary’s Law on Assembly (source in Hungarian). The Szarvas District Court determined that the New Hungarian Guard represented a continuation of the dissolved and prohibited Hungarian Guard in its “external characteristics, spirit, content, operational form and illegal public activities” (source in Hungarian).
On March 3, 2014, the Roma Press Center informed the news website Index.hu that the Kalocsa Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bács-Kiskun County had launched an investigation of Captain Mészáros and his deputy captain on suspicion of violating Hungary’s Law on Assembly when they organized and directed gatherings of the New Hungarian Guard, found previously to constitute the successor of the banned Hungarian Guard.
The Kalocsa Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office subsequently transferred the case to the Central Investigative Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Budapest, the office in charge of pursuing cases against those with parliamentary immunity, which Mészáros acquired when he became an official Jobbik candidate in the 2014 National Assembly election (source in Hungarian).
On March 17, 2014, the Central Investigative Chief Prosecutor’s Office announced that it had initiated the lifting of Mészáros’s parliamentary immunity in order to further pursue the investigation of the New Hungarian Guard captain. The office specified that the case against Captain Mészáros was based on the initiation of new Hungarian Guard members in the village of Akasztó on August 19, 2013 (source in Hungarian).
On April 12, 2016, the Kecskemét Court of Appeals upheld a 100,000-forint (320-euro) fine imposed on Mészáros for violating the Law on Assembly in Akasztó in 2013 (source in Hungarian).
For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense
On July 25, 2012, the Gyula Court of Justice rejected an earlier request from the Békés County Chief Prosecutor that the court dissolve For a Better Future Civil Guard because it had engaged in intimidation of Gypsies during its patrols in Gyöngyöspata and Hajdúhadház in the spring of 2011 (source in Hungarian).
On March 25, 2013, the Szeged Court of Appeals overturned the Gyula Court of Justice’s ruling, asking the court to reexamine its verdict based on the New Hungarian Guard’s subsequent activities in the villages of Magyarbánhegyes, Kunhegyes, Devecser and Tiszaroff, the towns of Sarkad, Várpalota and Cegléd and in the city of Budapest on fifth anniversary of founding of Magyar Gárda on August 25, 2012 (source in Hungarian).
On March 24, 2014, the Gyula Court of Justice again rejected the Békés County Chief Prosecutor’s request that the court dissolve For a Better Future Self-Defense (previously called For a Better Future Civil Guard). The court said that the prosecutor had failed to prove that For a Better Future Self-Defense had violated any laws, including Hungary’s Law on Assembly, during its meetings held at the specified locations. The court determined that verbal attacks articulated during the meetings had been directed at criminal elements and not at “the honest and respectable [tisztességes] Gypsy population” (source in Hungarian). Judge Erika Mucsi stated in the verdict (source in Hungarian):
The term “Gypsy” as a category cannot be interpreted primarily on racial grounds, but as a designation used to indicate the member of a group living in segregation from the rest of the population regardless of racial affiliation who disregards the tradition values of the majority of society as well as the values protected by the previously cited laws and who leads a certain work-avoiding lifestyle and holds moral attitudes that do not respect private property or norms of coexistence.
The court furthermore ordered the Békés County Chief Prosecutor to pay the 450,000-forint cost of the legal proceedings, which will be transferred back to the Szeged Court of Appeals in the event of an appeal of the verdict (source in Hungarian).
On May 26, 2014, the National Council of Judicial Ethics concluded that Judge Mucsi’s verdict cited above had represented a personal opinion and expression of personal values and thus violated the National Ethical Code for Judges (source in Hungarian).
The Uniformed Crime Law
Following the weeks of explosive tension between the radical-nationalist paramilitaries and local Gypsies in Gyöngyöspata and Hajdúhadház, the Orbán government initiated changes to Hungary’s criminal code aimed at combating what it called “uniformed crime” (egyenruhás bűnözés): these modifications, which the National Assembly approved on May 2, 2011, prescribed prison terms of up to three years for intimidation of others based on their national, ethnic, racial or religious identity and of up to two years for engaging in activities aimed at maintaining public security or public order without lawful authorization (source in Hungarian).
Speaking on state-run television on a few days before their passage, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that these supplements to the criminal code were necessary because “Right now we have a situation in which nine out of ten people think that things are not good the way they are. . . . The whole country sees that this is leading toward violence and that people must be protected from this violence. Every kind of violence” (source in Hungarian).
Neither police nor judicial officials have yet invoked the legislation to inhibit the operations of the New Hungarian Guard and For a Better Future Hungarian Self-Defense.
Last updated: June 24, 2018.