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Back to March 2020. To contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Security Council announces drastic measures such as a ban on gatherings and a ban on non-essential movements.
Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden incorporates these measures into ministerial decisions. These decisions are based on the law of 15 May 2007 on civil security. That law provides that “in case of threatening circumstances” measures can be taken to “protect the people”.
But this legal basis is soon discussed, partly because the existing legislation from 2007 was more focused on disasters such as large explosions and fires and was not really tailor-made for a pandemic. That is also one of the reasons why the much-discussed pandemic law was subsequently introduced.
The Hainaut police court, Charleroi department, had to judge a number of violations against the corona decisions in question. But the court first wanted to submit a number of questions to the Constitutional Court. For example: aren’t the terms “threatening circumstances” and “protection of the population” too vague? The Court thinks not. Those terms allow the minister to “take appropriate measures in many urgent circumstances to safeguard civil security”.
The Court does see a conflict with the Constitution in the 2007 law in question. The fact that judges are not allowed to take into account mitigating circumstances in violations – while they can in other crimes – violates the principles of equality and non-discrimination in the Constitution. In other words, judges must also be able to take mitigating circumstances into account in such violations.
Also see: Karel Lattrez on pandemic law