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Coronavirus: Court challenge to legality of Covid-19 decrees

ÅÍÏ×ÏÉ ÏÉ ÊÁÔÇÃÏÑÏÕÌÅÍÏÉ ÓÔÇÍ ÕÐÏÈÅÓÇ Ñ.ÅÑÙÔÏÊÑÉÔÏÕ
Nicosia district court

The legality and constitutionality of the coronavirus decrees, and the restrictions stemming from them, are being challenged at the Nicosia district court.

Nicos Clerides is representing three clients who have been fined under the restrictions and he has argued that the fines are invalid as they are based on decrees which are illegal and unconstitutional.

The case of one of his clients is scheduled for Tuesday while the other two cases are set for April 23.

Clerides has reasoned that the decrees are essentially administrative acts and are illegal as according to article 88 of the 1989 law a minister does have the authority to issue such acts but they must be submitted to parliament for approval.

In a follow-up statement, Clerides said that the administrative acts have not been submitted to parliament for approval and are therefore invalid.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Clerides said that he is representing three clients – one of whom is a priest who was fined for holding a church service in defiance of the then-restrictions and is refusing to pay.

The other two cases are of a similar nature and as such it is not clear that even if a judge were to rule in favour of them, whether it would have wider implications for the rest of the restrictions or simply those as regards church services.

The second point, Clerides said, is that even if the decrees are valid and the constitution does allow for core liberties – such as freedom of movement and freedom of assembly – to be curtailed, it cannot be done to the extent that the public is completely deprived of these rights.

These foundational liberties can be curtailed in two cases, for public health and public safety – and as Clerides noted, the former is currently the justification – but that: “In this specific case my position is that the core of the right is affected, so it is unconstitutional.”

Clerides’ third argument is that of proportionality.

“So there is a need for the public health… [but] the principle of proportionality tells us that restrictive measures must be of such a nature that in each case they are exactly what is needed and nothing further than that,” Clerides said.

And in his view, that line has been crossed: “We have gone beyond what was needed to protect public health, that is, we have gone beyond the limits

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