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Agnes Gereb Persecuted for Midwifery

Status: 
Suspended from Working as Midwife
About the situation

On 9 January 2018, the Budapest court of appeal decided to uphold the original verdict of 2012 against Dr Ágnes Geréb.

About Agnes Gereb

Agnes GerebDr Ágnes Geréb is a midwife and has supported women in giving birth at home. She became an advocate for home birth nationally and was targeted as a result of her work helping women access their rights to home birth. Those who provide home-birth services are criminalised in Hungary, despite the European Court for Human Rights asserting the rights of women to give birth at home in 2010.

12 January 2018
Highest national court upholds the initial sentence against Dr Ágnes Geréb

On 9 January 2018, the Budapest court of appeal decided to uphold the 2012 verdict of a ten year ban against Dr Ágnes Geréb.

Dr. Geréb is a women’s human rights defender and has been a pioneer of home births long before this practice was legalised in Hungary in 2011. Before focusing solely on home-births she had tended to some 6,500 births at the University of Szeged, Faculty of Medicine, in her capacity as an obstetrician. She became an advocate for home birth in Hungary and was targeted as a result of her work helping women access their rights to home birth.

On 10 February 2012, the human rights defender was sentenced to two years in prison and a ten year ban on professional activity for medical negligence during delivery resulting in the death of two infants, one in 2003 and another in 2007. Prior to 2011, home births were illegal in Hungary.

Before the verdict of 2012, Dr. Geréb spent three months in pre-trial detention and more than three years under house arrest.

In April 2017, the Budapest court of appeal modified the original sentence, and the two year prison sentence was commuted to 5 years of probation, and the original ten year ban on professional activity was reduced to eight years. The Prosecution appealed the decision and in its final judgment, the Budapest court of appeal upheld the original verdict from 2012.

22 February 2014
Human rights defender Dr Ágnes Geréb released from house arrest

On 21 February 2014, human rights defender Dr Ágnes Geréb was released from house arrest by the Court of Appeal in Budapest. The human rights defender has been under house arrest for 3 years, 4 months and 15 days.

Dr Ágnes Geréb is a midwife and has supported women in giving birth at home. She became an advocate for home birth nationally and was targeted as a result of her work helping women access their rights to home birth. Those who provide home-birth services are criminalised in Hungary, despite the European Court for Human Rights asserting the rights of women to give birth at home in 2010.

Dr. Geréb was arrested on 5 October 2010 at the Napvilág Birthing Centre, Almautca, Budapest, after assisting the delivery of a premature child. The human rights defender was reportedly subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment while in detention, and at a court appearance on 12 October 2010, she was restrained by both handcuffs and foot shackles, despite having made no attempt to escape. She was transferred to house arrest on 21 December 2010. On 28 February 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders stated that “Notwithstanding the information provided by the Government, the Special Rapporteur reiterates her concern that the arrest and detention of Dr. Ágnes Geréb may be linked to her work in the defence of human rights”. On 24 March 2011, the human rights defender was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment by the Budapest City Court, with a 5-year ban on practising as an obstetrician or midwife.

The decision of 21 February 2014 came about when an appeal made by her legal team regarding the severity of the conditions of her house arrest was upheld by the Court of Appeal in Budapest. The court ordered that the house arrest restrictions be removed and ruled that the human rights defender could move freely around the city of Budapest and throughout the immediate countryside. She is not, however, permitted to go beyond this territory nor is she allowed to advise or consult with pregnant women.

A 2012 two year prison sentence remains pending against the human rights defender, a sentence which she has appealed to the President of Hungary. The President has publicly stated that he will review the appeal once further cases against other midwives presently taking place in the criminal courts are finalised. It is expected that these cases will conclude either late in 2014 or early in 2015.

While Front Line Defenders wholeheartedly welcomes the release of Dr Ágnes Geréb, it remains concerned by her arrest and detention in the first place, and also by the remaining sentence against her. Front Line Defenders calls on the Hungarian authorities to quash this conviction and to compensate the human rights defender for the violation of her rights.

14 May 2012
WHRD IC expresses concern about the criminalization of the woman rights defender Agnés Geréb and her colleagues

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition published a statement on Dr. Ágnes Geréb's impending imprisonment for two years and other criminal procedures against her and other midwives.

Full Text of WHRD IC open letter to President of Hungary:

Your Excellency:

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is concerned about Dr. Ágnes Geréb's impending imprisonment for two years and other criminal procedures against her and other midwifes. We write to ask that you reply positively to her request for a presidential pardon and for the cancellation of all criminal procedures against her and the other defenders involved in the same cases, Ágnes Kiraly.

The prison sentence and 10 year ban on practicing handed down to Dr. Geréb on February, 10th, 2012, has shocked our human rights community of which Dr. Geréb is rightly seen as an important member.

Dr. Geréb is not only known internationally as a renowned midwife but is also regarded as Hungary's foremost defenders of women's rights in the area of maternity services. No later than February 28th, 2011 at the UN General Assembly the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, stated that " notwithstanding the information provided by the [Hungarian] Government the Special Rapporteur reiterates her concern that the arrest and detention of Dr. Ágnes Geréb may be linked to her work in the defense of human rights.

In the 15 months that have passed since the UN Special Rapporteur expressed those clear and accurate concerns to the United Nations and to the Government of Hungary, Dr. Geréb has been nevertheless forced to remain under unnecessary and severe house imprisonment. Dr. Geréb also has had to endure a court trial where all court experts called upon were entirely unfamiliar with homebirth deliveries and had adopted public positions against the safety of homebirths. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that it was impossible for Dr Geréb to receive a fair trial when the two fundamental requirements of an expert witness, to be an expert and unbiased, were glaringly absent.

On the basis of what we have outlined above, WHRD IC believes that Dr. Geréb has been singled out for abuse and mistreatment based on her work as a human rights defender and that in the process her own human rights have been trampled upon and defiled.

As the new President of Hungary we believe that you are in a unique position to bring an end to the unwarranted and highly personal attack by the state authorities on Dr. Geréb. You have the power and the opportunity to bring resolution, reconciliation and justice to bear on this matter and we hope you have the wisdom and the courage to grant the clemency request that Dr. Geréb so justly deserves.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights worldwide.