The corona crisis shows that it is difficult to balance fundamental rights and the public interest. That is why, according to Unia, it is important that the measures taken – which amount to the curtailment of human rights – are “legitimate and proportionate, in function of the goal one wishes to achieve”.
Curfew, ban on demonstration
For example, Unia finds it difficult to agree with the curfew as it was instituted throughout the province of Antwerp and the ban on any form of demonstration that applies in various municipalities.
“When we look at these drastic measures, we immediately think of the approach of other countries, which is nevertheless more proportional.” In Austria, for example, demonstrations are only allowed with a face mask, while in Denmark demonstrators are encouraged to have themselves tested for the corona virus.
“Does it really make sense?”
“We expect those making decisions to be more cautious when taking measures that could jeopardize our fundamental rights,” write Charlier and Fella. “It is raining measures at various levels, often there is uncertainty about their scope or the applicable term. All this raises the question whether all measures are really useful.”
It is true that Belgian “architecture”, with some centralization and some delegation of powers, is tricky, but that architecture cannot be invoked to justify deviating from our constitutional principles, it says.
Moreover, Belgium is not meeting its international obligations. Because contrary to what the European human rights treaty requires, our country should have informed the Council of Europe about the restriction of certain rights and freedoms provided by that treaty.
“Belgium decided not to. Instead, our country referred to the general regime of the treaty.” It states precisely that restrictions may only be made if they are necessary and proportional.
Unia also asks that the measures that are taken are first discussed with civil society and clearly explained to the population. “If we are to maintain the trust of all citizens, we must ensure that measures taken are applied correctly, without arbitrariness or injustice.”
Finally, Unia believes that the “bubbling polarization” must be contained. From all the confusion that comes with the corona measures, a kind of ‘model citizen’ emerges, who knows the virus and knows how to fight it, but reacts negatively when someone else would show little public spirit.