Constitutional law expert: Emergency Act phrasing vague

Paloma Krõõt Tupay.
Paloma Krõõt Tupay. Source: ERR

University of Tartu constitutional law lecturer Paloma Krõõt Tupay tells "Aktuaalne kaamera" in an interview that the muddy phrasing of the Emergency Act bill in Riigikogu proceedings this week could result in unconstitutional decisions down the line.

Estonia will likely not have an emergency situation from May 18. Should we be worried about incoming legislation to replace it?

It is an important question – what will happen from Monday if we do not have that law (Emergency Act – ed.) by then. The problem is that we would not be able to enforce certain restrictions in that case. For example, as concerns restrictions on movement, current legislation only provides for them during an emergency situation for the purpose of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. But to be able to use restrictions in the future, in peacetime, in a so-called emergency (that is no longer an emergency situation), an amendment needs to be passed.

Do you feel this amendment gives officials too much power? Signe Riisalo said it would seriously prejudice people's rights.

It definitely provides for such excesses. This is where we need to ask ourselves whether expedited proceedings constitute good democratic practice or the general phrasing of the bill good legislative practice. While those things might not be unconstitutional in themselves. The question is whether certain public decisions could become unconstitutional when handled irresponsibly because of the rather muddy phrasing of this bill, whether it would make it possible for the authorities to make unconstitutional decisions. There is a measure of corresponding uncertainty in the bill.

Is it right to take powers away from politicians, the government that has a mandate from the people and give them to public servants and specialists?

I believe it comes with the danger of political responsibility dissolving. Of course, the Health Board can limit people's rights, also in the conditions of current legislation – the question is to what extent. From a certain level, such as what is necessary to address a pandemic, we need decisions to be subject to political responsibility, so people could express their displeasure with decisions at elections.

Looking at what transpired in the Riigikogu on Monday, could we have legal trainings for MPs?

I believe our MPs are quite capable in their office and aware of their position in society. And the opposition must be active now. If someone feels their freedoms or immunity have been violated or their mandate restricted, I believe they are free to turn to court.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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