Article 21 - Non-discrimination
Article 47 - Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Key facts of the case:
In this case the applicants criticise Government Decision no. 1183/2021 by which the state of alert is prolonged in Romania for 30 days, starting 9 November 2021 and by which a set of limitations of rights are imposed for people who were not vaccinated against SARS-COVID.
This Government Decision, as well as the ones before it, are time barred, they apply only for 30 days, after which a new decision has to be taken to prolong the state of alert. In practice this means that whenever someone would challenge such a decision, by the time a court would be able to render a judgement and the judgement would become final, the Government Decision would anyway not be applicable anymore and would be replaced by another government decision.
The main legal problems would be that this governmental decision does not come with an efficient way of challenging it before national courts. There is no specific way prescribed by law by which to suspend the applicability of this governmental decision until a final court decision would be made. There also is no expedient procedure prescribed by law to ensure a court decision is rendered before the 30 days’ time period in which the Government Decisions is in effect. This raises an issue in respect to Article 47 of the Charter, right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial.
This government decision also places a number of limitations on fundamental rights for people who were not vaccinated, limiting their access to many of their rights and the court is called to assess if these limitations are necessary and proportionate.
Key legal question raised by the Court:
The main legal questions would be on how to ensure effective access to justice for petitioners who claim to be affected by a policy which is time barred and which comes without its own mechanism to ensure effective scrutiny by a court of law.
Outcome of the case:
The court found that the Government Decision prolonging the state of alert infringes the right to access to court because it does not come with a procedure to seek its effective suspension or annulment within the 30 days time period in which it produces effects. The court found that the only effective remedy would be to give direct effect to Article 6 of the ECHR and Article 47 of the Charter and grant the applicant the possibility to seek the suspension of the effects of this Government Decision.
The court also found that the limitations imposed on rights of people who are not vaccinated are not adequate or necessary, the difference in treatment is not justified and are in violation of the Constitution and Article 21 of the Charter.
Hence, the Court of Appeal ruled to suspend the effects of the Government Decision, in respect to the two applicants and partially annulled it.
This court decision only produces effects for the two applicants who submitted the claim but it adds to a growing body of legal opinions criticising the way in which the Government has been limiting rights during the pandemic and the lack of an effective legal scrutiny of these limitations.
Prohibiting access to a judicial procedure by which to suspend the harmful effects of the administrative act obviously constitutes an interference with the right of access to justice (recognized by art. 21 of the Romanian Constitution, by art. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by art. 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, of art. 8 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Therefore, keeping in mind the violation of the plaintiffs' access to justice (by the cumulative effect of art. 5, paragraph 3 of Law no. 554/2004, that they cannot obtain the interruption of the effects of the government decision until the date of termination of its applicability, respectively until the end of 08.12.2021, the court finds that the only possible remedy to ensure this right is the direct application of the provisions of art.21 of the Constitution Romania, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, respectively Articles 8 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and granting access to the possibility of requesting the temporary suspension of the execution of the Government Decision (given that the hypothesis of the remedy consisting in the final settlement of the action for annulment until 08.12.2021 is impossible to be carried out practically), under the conditions normally provided for such a request, by domestic law, by Law no. 554/2004.
The ban on access to certain activities for unvaccinated/untreated/untested persons, in conjunction with allowing access to other persons, is obviously a differentiated treatment, for which the defendants apparently did not offer an objective justification, and which therefore creates, apparently, a discriminatory situation, a violation of the principle of equality between citizens, of the exclusion of privileges and discrimination in the exercise of some of the rights provided by art. 1, paragraph 2 of Government Ordinance no. 137/2000, some of which represent fundamental rights and freedoms, recognized at the constitutional level and whose non-discriminatory exercise is imposed both by art.16, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, and by art.14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, art. 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union or Article 1-2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In conclusion, the court notes that, not being adequate and necessary to achieve the proposed aim, the claimed different treatment is not objectively justified, constituting discrimination in the exercise (in reality, even in possession) of rights and freedoms, some of which are fundamental rights and therefore a violation of art.53, paragraph 2 of the Romanian Constitution, of art.1, paragraph 2 of Law no.55/2020, of Government Ordinance no.137 / 2000, as well as of art. 14 of the ECHR, of art. 21 of the Charter Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Based on art. 6 of the ECHR, on art. 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, on the Romanian Constitutional Court decision no. 392/2021, it suspends the execution against the plaintiffs of the provisions of Government Decision 1183/2021 which conditions the possibility to engage in some activities based on whether someone, is vaccinated, immune or on their test results, test which they need to buy themselves, until the legal act stops producing effects.
Interzicerea accesului la o procedura judiciara de suspendare a efectelor vatamatoare ale actului administrativ constituie, evident, o ingerinta in dreptul de acces la justitie (recunoscut de art.21 din Constitutia Romaniei, de art.6 din Conventia Europeana a Drepturilor Omului, de art.47 din Carta drepturilor fundamentale a Uniunii Europene, de art.8 si 10 din Declarație Universala a Drepturilor Omului).
Retinand deci incalcarea accesului la justitie al reclamantilor (prin efectul cumulat al art.5, alin.3 din Legea nr.554/2004, cu omisiunea legislativa de reglementare a unei proceduri speciale, accelerate, de solutionare a actiunilor in anulare), prin aceea ca acestia nu pot obtine intreruperea efectelor hotararii de guvern pana la data incetarii aplicabilitatii ei, respectiv pana la sfarsitul zilei de 08.12.2021, instanta constata ca singurul remediu posibil, pentru asigurarea acestui drept, il constituie aplicarea directa a prevederilor art.21 din Constitutia Romaniei, art.6 din Conventia Europeana a Drepturilor Omului, a art.47 din Carta drepturilor fundamentale a Uniunii Europene, respectiv a art.8 si 10 din Declarația Universala a Drepturilor Omului si acordarea accesului la posibilitatea de a solicita suspendarea provizorie a executarii hotararii de guvern (dat fiind ca ipoteza remediului constand in solutionarea definitiva a actiunii in anulare pana in data de 08.12.2021 este imposibil de realizat practic), in conditiile prevazute in mod obisnuit pentru o astfel de cerere, de dreptul intern, adica de Legea nr.554/2004.
Cazul bine justificat este dat de faptul ca interzicerea accesului la anumite activitati pentru persoanele nevaccinate/netrecute prin boala/netestate, coroborata cu permiterea accesului celorlalte persoane, constituie, in mod evident, un tratament diferentiat, pentru care, aparent, paratii nu au oferit o justificare obiectiva, si care deci creaza, aparent, o situatie discriminatorie, adica o incalcare a principiului egalității între cetățeni, al excluderii privilegiilor și discriminării în exercitarea unora din drepturile prevazute de art.1, alin.2 din OG nr.137/2000, din care unele reprezinta drepturi si libertati fundamentale, recunoscute la nivel constitutional si a caror exercitare nediscriminatorie este impusa atat de art.16, alin.1 din Constitutie, cat si de art.14 din Conventia Europeana a Drepturilor Omului, art.21 din Carta drepturilor fundamentale a Uniunii Europene sau de art.1-2 din Declaratia Universala a Drepturilor Omului.
Conchizand, instanta retine ca, nefiind adecvata si necesara pentru atingerea scopului propus, diferentierea reclamata nu este justificata obiectiv, constituind o discriminare in exercitarea (in realitate, chiar in detinerea) unor drepturi si libertati, din care unele fundamentale si deci, o incalcare a art.53, alin.2 din Constitutia Romaniei, a art.1, alin.2 din Legea nr.55/2020, a OG nr.137/2000, precum si a art.14 din C.E.D.O., a art.21 din Carta Drepturilor Fundamentale a Uniunii Europene si a art.2 si 7 din Declaratia Universala a Drepturilor Omului.
In baza art.6 din CEDO, a art.47 din Carta drepturilor fundamentale a Uniunii Europene, a deciziei CCR nr.392/2021, suspenda executarea fata de reclamanti, a dispozitiilor din anexele HG nr.1183/2021 care conditioneaza participarea la diverse activitati de vaccinare/imunizare sau de testare pe cheltuiala proprie a persoanei in cauza, pana la data de incetarii aplicabilitatii acestui act normativ.