Estonian court for 1st time ever deems requirement for coronavirus passport invalid

  • 2022-06-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The first tier Tallinn Administrative Court passed the first judgment on Tuesday finding that the requirement for a coronavirus certificate established by the government during the pandemic was invalid.

The court passed the judgment in a case based on an action brought by 56 people, who were allegedly prevented from participating in social life because they did not have a valid coronavirus certificate proving they had been vaccinated or had recovered from the virus.

The court found that some provisions of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act were unconstitutional and therefore the requirement for a coronavirus certificate established by the government was invalid.

Attorneys Ants Nomper and Kairi Kilgi from Ellex Raidla law firm, who represented the government in the case, described the decision as surprising, because on the same day the Tallinn Administrative Court issued two more judgments in coronavirus-related proceedings, where the actions were dismissed and the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act was found to be constitutional. 

"In total, the Tallinn Administrative Court has issued 16 judgments in coronavirus disputes and seven of them have already entered into force. Tuesday's decision was the first one in which the court ruled in favor of the applicants, and it has not yet entered into force," said Kilgi.

The administrative court referred the dispute to the Supreme Court, which provides an opportunity to obtain a position on an issue of great importance to society, the attorneys said.

"As the Riigikogu is currently handling a bill to amend the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, on which the views of lawyers differ, the Supreme Court's assessment will hopefully bring legal certainty on which to build the strategy for combating the coronavirus in the future," Nomper added.

Under law, the Supreme Court has four months to process a matter.

In its judgment, the Tallinn Administrative Court noted that since having a coronavirus certificate had been made a condition for the realization of fundamental rights by individuals, the requirement to have a coronavirus certificate constituted an indirect obligation to vaccinate.

The restrictions and measures at issue should have been decided primarily by law, but even if the right of delegation were to be accepted, the legislator should have set forth that restrictions and measures must be imposed by means of a government regulation, meaning a legislative act, and not an order of the government, which is an administrative act, the court explained.

The court found that the government did not have the authority to oblige individuals to prove their state of health by showing a coronavirus certificate, nor to oblige private persons to check  individuals for the existence of said certificate, meaning to engage in supervision and process various types of personal data.

The court also noted that the quarantine requirements for people who had recovered from COVID-19 were in part unlawful.

"The legitimate aim of the coronavirus certificate requirement can be to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and mass morbidity through persons posing an infection risk, to avoid overburdening the health system and to ensure the continuity of the state. Its legitimate aim cannot be to vaccinate more persons," the court explained.

"Prohibitions and orders must have a causal relationship to a decrease in infection, in view of their actual foreseeable effect. In this case, the respondent has not even claimed, let alone  proved, that the restrictions imposed by it have a connection with the reduction in infections," the court added.

The court noted that the indirect obligation to vaccinate is not consistent with the principles of human dignity and the rule of law, nor is the use of a person, their body, as a means to achieve a societal objective consistent with the principle of human dignity.