Falling at the First Hurdle? Terheş v Romania: Lockdowns and Normalising the Exception

By Alan Greene*

Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and the petitions challenging many of the exceptional powers enacted by states across Europe, cases are now beginning to trickle though to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR; the Court). In a blog post on this website last year, I cautioned against the dangers of these powers from a human rights perspective. Such powers, I maintained, were absolutely necessary to confront the pandemic. The key human rights concern, however, will be the precedent that these powers may set for similar restrictive measures to be introduced outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must, I contended, ensure that these exceptional powers are quarantined to exceptional situations and that formal derogations using Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were the best way of ensuring this. Unfortunately, in Terheş v Romania, the Fourth Section of the Court has fallen at the first hurdle when entrusted with this challenge.

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