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Govt ordered to check justification of restrictions on movement every week

Ljubljana, 17 April - The Constitutional Court has ordered the government to immediately verify the justification for restrictions on the movement of persons put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus, whereupon it must examine every week whether the government decree imposing these restrictions is still justifiable.

The Constitutional Court gets a rejuvinated bench.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
File photo

The decision, released on Friday, refers to the most far-reaching government decree to combat the crisis, which was adopted on 29 March and amended on 14 April and effectively put the entire country into lockdown, allowing only limited exemptions to the prohibition of movement, including going to work, the grocery store or the nearest park.

The court has now suspended Article 7 of the decree, which determines that the measures will be in place "until the cessation of the reasons", a provision which gives the government the discretion to decide when to end the measures. The suspension will remain in place until the judges reach a substantive decision.

In the meantime, the government must verify the justification for the extension of the measures every week based on expert opinion to verify "whether the measures are necessary for the achievement of the objectives". The first such assessment must be made as soon as the decision is formally served to the government.

The court says it realises that the decree will cease to apply at some point anyway, but it says that it admitted the application nevertheless since it raises "important issues concerning constitutional law".

Interestingly, it has not been revealed who petitioned the court, as the petitioner requested the Constitutional Court that the petition be anonymised. The court said that conditions for this had been met and the petition was thus anonymised.

The government previously said that the petition had no grounds and asked the court to reject it to avoid irreparable consequences for public health. Interior Ministry said in a statement today that it supported the court's decision, adding that this is already being done daily.

"We did the right thing! The suspended segment is not problematic," tweeted Interior Minister Aleš Hojs. "The government will simply have to determine regularly whether the decree is still needed, extending or abolishing it, as dictated by the Constitution."

The opposition welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court, with the Social Democrats (SD) saying that Hojs's statement was misleading, as it was clear that the Constitutional Court had not yet discussed the contents of the decree.

The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) questioned the sensibility of the movement restrictions, saying that the "lively Saturday", when people allegedly flocked from the cities to tourist destinations and was the reason for the restriction, had not been so lively after all, judging by the number of new infections.

The party was also critical of President Borut Pahor and interior and defence ministers Hojs and Matej Tonin, for ignoring social distancing rules while visiting the southern border earlier this week.

"Their excuse is that it was a slip. But when ordinary people slipped this way... they did not get a chance to apologise and do better next time. They were punished immediately: with the movement restriction, some also with fines," LMŠ said.

The Left also welcomed the Constitutional Court's decision, adding that it will petition the court on Monday to examine coronavirus stimulus package provisions giving more powers to the police.

The Left also intends to ask the court to review the government decree adopted in Wednesday, which the Left says restricts movement between municipalities on the basis of the mentioned act.

© STA, 2020