Netherlands has to lift curfew immediately, court rules

Netherlands has to lift curfew immediately, court rules
Credit: Belga

The curfew in the Netherlands must be lifted immediately, according to a ruling by a judge in The Hague, in a case taken to court by protest group Viruswaarheid.

The ruling is effective immediately, according to the court, meaning the curfew measure is technically no longer valid starting from today.

However, the Dutch government is appealing against the ruling, and wants to have it suspended today, pending a final ruling on appeal. If the ruling is not suspended, that means there will be no curfew until or unless there is a new ruling.

The ruling in The Hague was given in a case taken to court by the Viruswaarheid protest group, which organised several protests against the Dutch coronavirus measures since they have been in force.

According to the judge, the curfew is a "far-reaching infringement of the right to freedom of movement and privacy" and restricts the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration, among other things.

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"The judge considered that there is a pandemic, a virus that is mutating, great pressure on healthcare," the court said. "It is a time of great concern and difficult decisions. But it is precisely drastic measures like the curfew that must be based on good law."

To be able to impose a curfew, a very careful decision-making process is needed, said the judge. In the Netherlands, the 'Act on extraordinary powers of civil authority' was used for this purpose, which is only intended for very urgent and extraordinary circumstances, and does not require the involvement of the two chambers of the Dutch Parliament.

However, according to the court, this was not an emergency, which was "evidenced by the fact that before the curfew was introduced, the possibility of a curfew had already been discussed more often."

Effective immediately

The Dutch curfew has been in force since 23 January, and was recently extended until 2 March. Throughout the country, anyone who has no valid reason to be on the streets must stay inside from 9:00 PM to 4:30 AM.

In principle, the judge's ruling is binding as of today, according to local media, but the Dutch government has decided to appeal and wants the ruling of the judge in The Hague to be suspended today, pending a final ruling on appeal.

The request for a suspension of the ruling will be heard at 4:00 PM today.

"We have taken note of the ruling of the preliminary relief judge this morning, we have appealed against it and asked for the decision to be suspended," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference in reaction to the ruling.

"This is because the lifting of the curfew as of tonight would have direct consequences for the fight against the coronavirus," he added.

Rutte "strongly" called on the Dutch people to observe the curfew, as the lifting of the measure would have "serious consequences" for the fight against the virus, he said.

"The curfew is a means, not an end. So that, soon, we will have all our freedoms back."

In Belgium, a lawsuit against the curfew measure was also filed last year. The Council of State, however, rejected the complaint.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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