Belgium must lift ‘all Covid-19 measures’ within 30 days, Brussels court rules
The Belgian State has been ordered to lift “all coronavirus measures” within 30 days, as the legal basis for them is insufficient, a Brussels court ruled on Wednesday. The League for Human Rights had filed the lawsuit several weeks ago and challenged Belgium’s system of implementing the measures using Ministerial Decrees, which means it is done without any input from parliament.
The judge gave the Belgian State 30 days to provide a sound legal basis, or face a penalty of €5,000 per day that this period is exceeded, with a maximum limit of €200,000, reports Le Soir.
The current coronavirus measures are based on the Civil Safety Act of 2007, which enable the State to react quickly in “exceptional circumstances,” but the judge has now ruled that these laws cannot serve as a basis for the Ministerial Decrees.
“The judge ruled that the principle of legality has been violated because the current way of working is not foreseeable enough,” Kati Verstrepen of the Human Rights League confirmed to VRT, adding the consequences are “not so dramatic” that from one day to the next, the measures would no longer be valid. For the time being, the current coronavirus measures will not change, and the verdict is currently being studied by the office of Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, reports De Standaard.
Appealing against the court ruling is still possible, but as it concerns a summary judgment, an appeal would not suspend the execution of the judgment. On Wednesday afternoon, the Chamber will debate Belgium’s upcoming pandemic law, which is supposed to provide “a permanent legal basis, for taking this kind of restrictive measures during a pandemic.” Several legal experts already pressed the Belgian State to bring forward the law as soon as possible to avoid judges cancelling fines written out for violations of the measures, and this ruling only increases the pressure to quickly adopt it. Maïthé Chini & Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times ‘Disgrace’: Belgium criticised after court order to lift all Covid measures
Wednesday, 31 March 2021
N-VA group leader, Peter De Roover, in the Chamber. Credit: Belga
The recent verdict of a Brussels court – which ordered Belgium to lift all its coronavirus measures within 30 days – is a “disgrace for the government,” according to the Flemish rightwing N-VA party. The ruling was “the accident waiting to happen for which the government closed its eyes,” said N-VA group leader Peter De Roover in the Chamber on Wednesday afternoon, calling it “a disgrace to the government.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a court ordered the Belgian State to lift “all coronavirus measures” within 30 days, as it considers the legal basis for them insufficient.
“This government has played with fire in implementing its coronavirus measures and it was warned about it, pretty much week after week in parliament,” De Roover said. “Today, what I have been warning about for months is happening,” he added. “This government took enormous risks in opting for Ministerial Decrees in implementing freedom-restricting measures in its coronavirus policy. That warning, however, was ignored.”
The judge gave the Belgian State 30 days to provide a sound legal basis, or face a penalty of €5,000 per day that this period is exceeded, with a maximum limit of €200,000.
“Prime Minister De Croo declared on 31 January in ‘De Zevende Dag’ (Flemish television programme) that he did not want to add an additional uncertainty, especially a legal one,” De Roover said. “How sour those words sound today.” He added that, by providing this 30-day period, “it is the judge who saves the government from total chaos, but the political damage is huge.” Group leader of the other party in the opposition, the far-right Vlaams Belang, Barbara Pas also called the judgement “an unbelievable embarrassment for the government,” and added that she fears that the legal basis will now be rushed. “I hope that the judgement will not be an argument for approving the pandemic law too quickly because there is still a lot of work to be done,” she added.
Additionally, Belgium’s pandemic law is currently in the works, and is supposed to provide “a permanent legal basis, for taking this kind of restrictive measures during a pandemic.” The country’s system of implementing the coronavirus measures using Ministerial Decrees, which means without any input from parliament, has been criticised several times before. Appealing against the court ruling is still possible, and the current coronavirus measures will not change for the time being. The verdict is currently being studied by the office of Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden. Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times