Christiana Stilianidou
Third ban in three months is placed on public gatherings
03 • 02 • 2021

For the third time in three months, the Chief of Police issued a decision restricting public outdoor gatherings, banning those with more than 100 participants from 26-1-2021 until 1-2-2021. Despite the fact that the prohibition now allows small gatherings, whilst the last two did not, concerns about the constitutionality and general legitimacy of both the specific decision and generally the placing of such restrictions on the exercise of the right of assembly remain undiminished.

Decision 1029/8/18 from the Chief of Police, banned all public open-air gatherings throughout the country with more than one hundred (100) participants from 26 January 2021 until 1 February 2021.

Decisions to ban public assemblies had previously been taken by the Chief of Police in November and December 2020. It is also worth mentioning that on Thursday, January 28, 2021, a nationwide rally had been planned protesting a bill tabled by the Ministry of Education.

Despite the fact that the restrictions have now allowed for small gatherings  of up to 100 participants, which was not the case in the previous two bans, concerns about the legality and constitutionality of this type of ban remain. As G. Sotirelis (a professor of Constitutional Law) states, although the restriction of the right to assemble in this case is less drastic, it can still be considered excessive.

c) it violates the principle of proportionality as an assessment has not taken place of whether more lenient restrictions (e.g. holding gatherings in compliance with prescribed sanitary measures) would achieve the same purpose without resulting in the prohibition of a constitutional right.

d) the formal procedure was not followed, as the National Committee for the Protection of Public Health against coronavirus COVID-19 was not consulted before the decision was taken;

e) both the decision in general and in particular the choice of the limit of 100 people was not sufficiently justified.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

Respect for human rights is one of the key components of a state governed by the rule of law.

Any restriction of fundamental individual rights is lawful only if it takes place in a constitutionally permissible manner, subject to certain basic legal guarantees, such as the principle of proportionality and the prohibition of the infringement of the essence of the right.

The decision of the Chief of Police to prohibit without discrimination all public outdoor gatherings and the corresponding restriction of the right to assemble raises serious concerns as it does not seem to correspond with constitutional requirements.

The need to protect public health and to take measures to address the spread of the pandemic must not take place in a way that undermines respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Christiana Stilianidou
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