Paris Suburb’s Virus Curfew Halted as Lockdown Rebukes Start
A French court blocked a curfew in a northern Paris suburb, in the latest example of a number of legal rebukes across France and Italy to measures designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The court said the mayor of Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine had failed to justify the curfew, which went from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The judge said that the regional government had already taken steps to prevent gatherings, including shutting liquor stores after 9 p.m.
Courts and regulators throughout Europe have given wide latitude to measures enacted to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. Lawyers were careful, however, to say the ruling wasn’t an all out challenge to the fight against Covid-19.
“The judge is sending a small message, saying he’s there to make sure there’s no escalation of unjustified lockdown measures at a local level,” said said Romaric Lazerges, a lawyer with Allen & Overy in Paris. “If the judge is suspending the mayor’s curfew, its precisely because there are already very restrictive measures.”
The ruling came the same day Paris authorities angered locals by extending the lockdown in the French capital and prohibiting outdoor exercise between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Five other regional agencies followed suit as the number of coronavirus cases in France topped 110,000 with more than 10,000 fatalities, the worst death toll in Europe after Italy and Spain.
The court said in its Wednesday ruling that no other town in the region had ordered a curfew. The request for an urgent ruling to overturn the Saint-Ouen mayor’s decree was filed by a man identified as Louis R. who complained it harmed fundamental freedoms and prevented him from going out to buy groceries or do exercise.
In the Normandy town of Lisieux, an overnight curfew imposed by the town’s mayor on March 27 was suspended by a regional court four days later, according to a local news report.
In Italy, the top administrative court supported the annulment of an ordinance restricting free movement imposed by the Sicilian city of Messina, newspaper la Repubblica reported earlier Wednesday. The decree imposed by the mayor of Messina required all those wanting to cross onto the Italian mainland to register on the city’s website 48 hours in advance, and was designed to cut the flow of people into the city, the paper said.
The Council of State deemed the measure to have arbitrarily restricted Italian citizen’s right to free movement, according la Repubblica. The ordinance will remain in place until it can be reviewed by Italy’s Council of Ministers and ultimately the country’s president.
The European Court of Human Rights said it has has received about 20 complaints about measures related to the coronavirus between mid-March and April 3. They primarily concern immigrants or others asylum-seekers held in detention centers and target countries including France, Greece, Italy, Turkey and the U.K.
In most cases, the court has postponed any decision while it seeks more information from the national governments concerned. All the cases so far involving those detained in France and Italy have been rejected to date, said the ECHR.
German courts have taken a tougher line. There have been a multitude of challenges to lockdown restrictions in the country, which has suffered less than a fifth as many virus-related deaths as France, and almost all have been rejected.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.