The government's convenience in managing the crisis through general orders and without involving the parliament is problematic, as recently pointed out by Supreme Court Justice Ivo Pilving, journalists found on the "Rahva teenrid" political talk show on Saturday.
The leaders of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) decided this fall that members who refuse to get vaccinated will be terminated if no other work is available. A number of EDF members moved for preliminary legal protection but were turned down by lower tier courts that basically dismissed the complaints. The complainants were released from service.
The Supreme Court decided on Friday that lower tier courts were wrong to dismiss claims. That said, the top court also found the EDF's vaccination requirement to be constitutional, meaning there are no grounds to revoke EDF Commander Lt. Gen. Martin Herem's order. Member of the Supreme Court Constitutional Review Chamber Ivo Pilving highlighted the armed forces' special role than cannot be compared to vaccination in other fields.
"Judges found that while people have the right to turn to lower tier courts, challenges are unpromising as the regulations are constitutional," Krister Paris said.
"The more legal clarity we have in these matters, the more social tensions will be eased," Neeme Korv found.
"What I took away from the Supreme Court order is that all complaints need to be processed. This will help curb frustration. It makes a great deal of difference whether your complaint is dismissed or whether it is processed by the court, even if you happen to lose," host Urmet Kook added.
"Secondly, the top court suggested that such challenges have a modest chance of success. What we can take away from this is that complaints of this nature will very probably not be satisfied should they reach the Supreme Court. That emergency medicine, rescuers and police also have a special role. Teachers – maybe; journalists – probably not," Kook reasoned.
But Pilving also found that the government has taken general orders too far in managing the crisis. The hosts of "Rahva teenrid" agreed.
"The extent to which the fight against the virus is managed through general orders that even the justice chancellor cannot challenge anno 2021 is raising questions. Thinking if only of how Finland involves its parliament in Covid certificate matters. It is very convenient for the government to simply issue directives so to speak," Paris suggested.
Kook agreed that managing the crisis using general orders is definitely simpler and more convenient for the government but said there should be a time limit. In addition to the fact that the justice chancellor cannot dispute general orders, any court decision following a challenge of the orders only applies to the complainant and not to other people. For example, if a vaccinated person challenges the government's mask-wearing obligation in court and wins, the decision will only exempt them from having to wear a mask, not every vaccinated person.
"It is a problem," Kook found.
Krister Paris pointed out that the attitude toward mandatory vaccination in Europe has started to change. Austria is on that path already, while Germany is considering it, despite having previously said that there will be no obligation to vaccinate.
"The list of professions in which immunization is mandatory is growing longer. What this holds for social cohesion and democracy is a question for the future," Paris said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski