Coronavirus outbreak: emergency measures must not be used to roll back fundamental rights

Coronavirus outbreak: emergency measures must not be used to roll back fundamental rights

Posted on the 24/03/20

The dramatic situation Europe is now facing calls for exceptional measures to protect public health. However, governments must not use this situation to roll back on fundamental rights, including economic and social rights.

While emergency measures may contain limitations to some basic rights (freedom of assembly, freedom of movement…), these measures should be:

  • Based on a clear legal basis allowing authorities to take emergency measures.
  • Strictly necessary and proportional to fight the crisis, meaning public authorities cannot use these powers to go beyond what is really needed to restore public health.
  • When deciding on emergency measures, public authorities must balance the protection of public health with other fundamental rights and interests.
  • Response to the public health crisis must respect the rule of law.
  • All exceptional measures taken during the crisis must be repelled once it is over. Measures derogating from fundamental rights are only justified by the sanitary crisis, and thus must not be maintained once the emergency has ended.

Moreover, during the crisis governments should act and take decisions in a transparent manner and accept democratic scrutiny.

The EHF is particularly concerned by the temptation to take drastic measures curtailing the right to privacy, including the tracing of individuals through various electronic means. This slippery slope for our freedoms must be avoided.

The EHF also fully supports the UN human rights experts’ statement of 16 March, that “States should not abuse emergency measures to suppress human rights”.


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