BUCHAREST (AP) — The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled against a member of the European Union parliament who claimed that a lockdown to curb COVID-19 infections in his native Romania last year deprived him of liberty.
Cristian Terhes, a member of the European Parliament since 2019, had filed a case with the court arguing that Romania's March 24-May 14 national lockdown amounted to “administrative detention.”
A panel of seven judges at the ECHR unanimously rejected Terhes’ claims, ruling them “inadmissible.” The court said the lockdown could not be equated with house arrest.
“He had not been subject to individual surveillance by the authorities and did not claim to have been forced to live in a cramped space, nor had he been deprived of all social contact,” the court said in a news release explaining the ruling.
The ECHR panel also noted that Terhes — a former Catholic priest who has spoken out in the European Parliament against the potential introduction of “digital green certificates,” sometimes called coronavirus passports — had not provided any information describing his actual experience of the lockdown.
The EU legislator vowed to “continue this fight to defend the rights and freedoms of all Romanians and Europeans.”
“Through this decision, the ECHR has set a precedent after which Europe is no longer a space of freedom but of mass closure and surveillance, as is Russia and China," Terhes said. "Based on this precedent the freedom of Europeans can be violated by governments as long as it is done en masse."
During the lockdown period at issue in the case, authorities advised people in Romania against leaving their homes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. There was also a 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew.
Residents in Romania could legally leave their homes providing they carried an official exemption form detailing their reasons, their whereabouts and a timeframe for their activity.
“No individual preventive measures had been taken against the applicant," the court said, adding that "the measure in question could not be equated with house arrest.”
The decision is final, the court said.
Council of Europe spokesperson Andrew Cutting said the case was the first directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic to be considered by a 7-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights. He also said that 17 other pandemic-related cases are pending.