Constitutional Court stays ban on public gatherings

Ljubljana – The Constitutional Court has stayed the implementation of a government decree that temporarily bans public gatherings and events, arguing in a decision published on Thursday that a new decree should be adopted with due consideration of the right to gatherings being a fundamental human right.

The stay affects the provision of the government decree on the temporary prohibition of gatherings due to coronavirus that determines “all events, rallies, celebrations and weddings are temporarily banned”.

It does not enter into force until 18 April, when the current decree expires, which gives the government some time to come up with a new system.

The court held the new regulation should be adopted within seven days and take into account not only the human rights aspect but also the fact that gatherings are an important means of expressing political positions.

According to the court, the government should weigh between potentially harmful consequences of gatherings and their constitutional importance, whereby it has a variety of tools at its disposal to strike a balance.

These may include using similar criteria than for religious service, or a cap on the number of participants, or mandating that masks be used and distancing observed.

Indeed, it said any such criteria may not be stricter than that applied to religious service.

Human rights groups have long argued that the strict ban on gatherings is undermining fundamental rights and making it impossible to organise even protests where people would adhere to all public health guidelines.

The government has insisted they are an effective part of the toolbox of measures to fight the epidemic.

Some forms of gatherings bans have been in place on and off since the start of the epidemic last year.

Under the current tiered system, limited gatherings of up to ten people are allowed in the orange tier and the ban is lifted in the yellow tier.

The entire country is currently in the higher red tier but will switch back to the regional approach next week.