To derogate or to restrict? The Covid-19 pandemic, proportionality and the justificatory gap in European human rights law

Zysset, A. (2022) To derogate or to restrict? The Covid-19 pandemic, proportionality and the justificatory gap in European human rights law. Jus Cogens, 4(3), pp. 285-301. (doi: 10.1007/s42439-022-00065-6) (PMCID:PMC9275544)

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In this paper, I offer an analytical and normative framework to re-visit the question of whether state parties should derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic via harsh ‘lockdown’ measures. It is three-pronged. First, I show that the predominant debate on the (non-)derogation question is informed by a textual approach to adjudication, which severely limits the analytical and evaluative horizon for addressing the issue. Most importantly, it cannot address one salient fact about the effects of lockdown measures, namely their highly disproportionate effects on vulnerable groups and minorities. Second, I argue that proportionality assessment should be the basis for determining whether state parties ought to derogate or not. This is because proportionality’s very purpose is in part to track the effects of state interferences on minorities and vulnerable groups by measuring the disproportionate burden imposed on them. It is also because proportionality assessment has very different requirements between limitation clauses built into the relevant Convention articles (e.g. Article 5, Articles 8–11) and the derogation clause (Article 15) under the ECHR. Surprisingly, while the emerging literature almost always mentions proportionality as an important component of the analysis, it does not investigate the extent to which each regime (derogation or limitation) better performs it, and why. Third, I draw from the philosophical literature on the ‘right to justification’ to clarify the egalitarian and justificatory function of proportionality. Unlike derogation, limitation clauses have a much higher and systematic requirement of justification, which makes the case for non-derogation clearer and stronger.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Zysset, Dr Alain
Authors: Zysset, A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Journal Name:Jus Cogens
ISSN (Online):2524-3985
Published Online:12 July 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Author
First Published:First published in Jus Cogens 4(3): 285-301
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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