Alexander Dumarey

Government gets 30 days to provide legal base for corona measures

A judge in Brussels has ordered the Belgian authorities to provide a legal basis for the present corona measures within thirty days.  If the government fails to provide a sound legal framework within this time Belgium will be ordered to pay a daily fine of 5,000 euros as long as an illegal situation persists.

It was Belgium’s Human Rights League that took the Belgian state to court because it felt a proper legal basis for corona measures, i.e. the restrictions to stem the spread of the pandemic, was lacking. The government currently bases its authority to impose corona measures on a series of disaster plan laws.  The League felt these laws didn’t provide the necessary legal basis for the drastic action the government has taken.

Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) is examining the court’s ruling.

Kati Verstrepen of the Human Rights League notes that the ramifications of the ruling do not plunge the country into crisis: “The government gets thirty days to provide the necessary legal framework.  It doesn’t mean that corona measures will disappear from one day to the next.”

The League even hopes corona measures won’t suddenly be dropped if the government fails to provide the framework within the time allotted.  Kati Verstrepen: “Corona measures are necessary and the government must protect us against the virus, but we have always said our fundamental rights must be respected and currently this is not the case”.

The current corona measures are introduced using ministerial decrees i.e. secondary legislation based on the Law on Civil Security (2007).  The League feels this piece of legislation wasn’t intended to deal with a pandemic like the one we are experiencing now.  The court has now sided with the League.

Interior minister Verlinden has been working on the introduction of a Pandemic Law for some time that in the future will provide a legal base to take measures during a pandemic.  The legislation is far from ready and it’s unclear whether it can be used during the present pandemic.

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