The Czech Republic's travel ban may be unconstitutional, says expert lawyer

Czechs have been banned from travelling abroad and foreigners from entering the Czech Republic since mid-March


Written by ČTK Published on 21.04.2020 15:12:58 (updated on 21.04.2020) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague, April 21 (CTK) – A ban on travelling from the Czech Republic based on the law on public health protection would be at variance with the constitution, constitutional lawyer Marek Antoš told CTK today.

Czechs have been banned from travelling abroad and foreigners from entering the Czech Republic since mid-March within the measures to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak.

At present, the government restricts travelling to and from the country on the basis of the national emergency law. However, this construct is very dubious too, Antoš added.

The state of emergency, during which the freedom of movement and stay in a defined territory can be restricted under the emergency law, is valid in the Czech Republic until April 30 for the time being.

Antoš points out that the emergency law enables to “ban people’s entry into and their stay and movement in set places or territory,” but not their departure.

“Consequently, I have doubts whether the current ban has sufficient legal grounds that under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms are necessary to restrict the freedom to leave the state territory guaranteed by the constitution,” Antoš said.

If the ban on leaving the Czech Republic continued after the state of emergency in the Czech Republic expired, such a law would be anti-constitutional, Antoš stressed, adding that the government cannot lean on the law on public health protection in this respect.

Its provision concerning an epidemic or its threat cannot be so broadly interpreted to enable the health minister to so strongly restrict fundamental rights, Antoš said.

If such legal interpretation prevailed, this would completely empty the sense of the state of emergency existence as well as the role of the Chamber of Deputies in its declaration and prolongation, he warned.

The government has only partially softened the ban on travelling, approving the Central Crisis Staff’s (UKS) proposal that people be allowed to travel abroad as of April 14 in necessary cases to visit relatives or for business, for instance.

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats, ČSSD) said on Monday that travelling can still be restricted under the law on public health protection, even after the state of emergency in the Czech Republic expires, but such measures must be proportionate. He added that he would personally consider a ban for a year or more disproportionate in the current situation.

Deputy Health Minister and epidemiologist Roman Prymula said in March that travelling abroad might be restricted for a year or two.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech (for ANO) said unlimited travelling would not be a matter this summer season. However, Czechs could possibly travel to selected countries with a low coronavirus infection risk, such as Croatia and the neighbouring Slovakia.

UKS head and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek (CSSD) said he would like to know the data on the infection development from experts first in connection with the possible softening of the travelling ban.

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