CCBE concerns and propositions regarding the current phase of reactivation of the justice system in the light of the COVID-19 crisis / Points de vigilance et propositions du CCBE dans le cadre de la phase actuelle de réactivation du système judiciaire à la lumière de la crise de Covid-19
CCBE Statement on the reactivation of justice in Europe - The CCBE sounds an alarm bell for justice in Europe / Déclaration du CCBE sur la réactivation de la justice en Europe - Le CCBE tire la sonnette d'alarme pour la justice en Europe
Letter to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
Letter to Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency
Letter to Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice
National Level - guidelines, guides, reports, useful links and other information
Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer: See the website of the BRAK on COVID-19 (questions related to the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis on the functioning of justice and lawyers): Corona: Aktuelle Hinweise für Justiz und Anwaltschaft
See the website of the Centre of Research, Studies and Legislation of the National Bar of Attorneys-at-Law in Poland on COVID-19: http://obsil.pl/informacje-prawne-zwiazane-epidemia-covid-19/ (a list of guidelines and expert opinions is available here.
- Guía de protección de la Abogacía Española ante la covid (Protection guide for Spanish lawyers against COVID-19): https://www.abogacia.es/publicaciones/informes/covid-19/guia-de-proteccion-de-la-abogacia-espanola-ante-covid-19/
- La respuesta institucional al covid-19, Manual para abogados y abogadas (Institutional response to Covid-19, Handbook for lawyers): https://www.abogacia.es/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-06-29-MANUAL-COVID19-ABOGADOS.pdf
- Las Abogacías europeas frente a la crisis sanitaria por coronavirus (European Lawyers against the COVID-19 health crisis): https://www.abogacia.es/actualidad/noticias/las-abogacias-europeas-frente-a-la-crisis-sanitaria-por-coronavirus/
Law Society of England and Wales: Law under lockdown: the impact of COVID-19 measures on access to justice and vulnerable people
National situations in video
- Interim report on the measures taken in the EU member states as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and their impact on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights adopted by the Venice Commission at its 124th online Plenary Session (8-9 October 2020)
This page aims to provide an overview of the measures taken within the European Union in relation to the COVID-19 virus, which affect the judiciary, the national authorities and the legal practitioners, but also businesses and citizens.
As the situation is changing rapidly and information on this topic is still evolving, this page will be updated regularly to reflect new developments
- Coronavirus and prisons in the EU: Member-State measures to reduce spread of the virus
- JURI Committee: Exchange of views with Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice - questions relating to the current COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences: The meeting was web-streamed here. More Info about the meeting available here.
Find out the latest news on the EU-coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak and the European Parliament's actions via the following link: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/priorities/eu-response-to-coronavirus
- EP Resolution on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences (FR)
- COVID-19: MEPs call for massive recovery package and Coronavirus Solidarity Fund
- Briefing on the Impact of Covid-19 Measures on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights in the EU with different measures taken in the Members States
Timeline - Council actions on COVID-19
This timeline gives an overview on the latest actions of the Council in relation to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/covid-19-coronavirus-outbreak-and-the-eu-s-response/timeline/
06/04/2020: EU Council: video conference of EU justice ministers to discuss measures introduced in the field of justice in response to the COVID19 pandemic
Le Conseil des ministres de la Justice a discuté des mesures de lutte contre l'impact du coronavirus dans le système judiciaire
Les ministres de la Justice de l'UE ont tenu hier une vidéoconférence pour échanger des informations sur les mesures visant à prévenir la propagation du coronavirus et à surmonter l'impact de la pandémie sur le système judiciaire. Ils se sont concentrés sur la situation de la justice pénale, de la justice numérique et de la justice civile. Didier Reynders, commissaire pour la Justice, a déclaré : « Nous sommes tous touchés par une crise sans précédent qui va marquer l'Union européenne, y compris le système judiciaire. Hier, les ministres de la Justice ont fait part des différentes mesures qu'ils prennent pour tenter d'adapter leurs systèmes judiciaires nationaux à la nouvelle situation. Je salue les efforts qu'ils déploient pour maîtriser l'impact de la pandémie. Dans un même temps, nous avons convenu que toute mesure extraordinaire doit être prise dans le respect de l'État de droit et des valeurs de l'UE. L'État de droit n'est pas en quarantaine. La Commission est prête à aider les États membres et à coordonner leurs efforts pour surmonter la crise actuelle. » Les mesures concernant la justice pénale, notamment la réduction de la pression sur les prisons, ont également été discutées. Cette réduction peut se faire, par exemple, en envisageant, lorsque cela est possible, des options non privatives de liberté comme l'utilisation de bracelets électroniques, en particulier pour les détenus en détention provisoire et les détenus présentant un profil à faible risque. La Commission s'est également engagée à mettre rapidement en place un groupe de coordination du mandat d'arrêt européen. Ce groupe sera composé d'un ou deux points de contact dans chaque État membre afin de maintenir des canaux de communication efficaces et rapides entre les États membres. En ce qui concerne la justice civile, tous les États membres doivent prévenir les préjudices économiques inutiles résultant des insolvabilités massives d'entreprises viables en raison de la crise. La Commission travaille en étroite collaboration avec la Présidence croate afin d'identifier les moyens de sauver les entreprises européennes, de protéger les consommateurs, et de partager les meilleures pratiques. En ce qui concerne la justice numérique, tous les États membres sont encouragés à intensifier leurs efforts pour garantir la numérisation complète des procédures judiciaires et un canal numérique sécurisé pour toutes les procédures de coopération judiciaire.
- Commission Recommendation on a common Union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit from the COVID-19 crisis
- Economic measures benefiting lawyers and their clients: Coronavirus Response: Commission adopts banking package to facilitate lending to households and businesses in the EU
- The Commission updates regularly this page with the latest EU actions in response to COVID19 outbreak: https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response_en
- Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures
Sanitary measures adopted in order to ensure that hearings can take place from 25 May 2020 (applicable to the Court of Justice and the General Court) https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/p1_3012066/en/
Mesures sanitaires adoptées en vue d’assurer le déroulement des audiences de plaidoiries à compter du 25 mai 2020 (applicables à la Cour de justice et au Tribunal) https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/p1_3012066/fr/
Continuity of the European public administration of justice: the Court of Justice of the European Union provides for hearings to resume from 25 May 2020: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2020-04/cp200051en.pdf
Change to the judicial activities of the court of justice as a result of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemicPress release from the Court: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/P_97552/en/
FRA Fundamental Rights Report 2020
- Press release : COVID-19 underlines importance of strong fundamental rights protection: https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2020/covid-19-underlines-importance-strong-fundamental-rights-protection
- Report: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2020-fundamental-rights-report-2020_en.pdf
The outbreak of COVID-19 affects people’s daily life in the 27 EU Member States. As the number of infected people in the EU territory began to mount rapidly in February and March, governments put in place a raft of measures – often introduced in a period of only a few days – in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Many of these measures reflect how, in exceptional emergency situations, the urgent need to save lives justifies restrictions on other rights, such as the freedom of movement and of assembly. This report outlines some of the measures EU Member States have put in place to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It covers the period 1 February – 20 March 2020.
- This page gathergather and share all regulations/protocols/approaches European Prison Services or related organisations have drafted or taken in order to deal with the Covid-19 virus: https://www.europris.org/covid-19-prevention-measures-in-european-prisons/
- See also the letter sent by Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reyders, to the Ministers Justice to limit the impact of Covid19 in prisons:
We are facing unprecedented times as we work together to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). The Commission will continue to support you as we take immediate action and chart a path out of the crisis. I would like to thank you for a very constructive exchange of views during the videoconference of the Ministers of Justice on 6 April. I would like to follow up on a number of critical issues where our collaboration is of key importance.
First, preventing the spread of the virus in prisons and sharing best practice. I am pleased to share with you a document, which was recently prepared at my request by EuroPris summarising the information shared on their website (enclosed as Annex 1). Moreover, my services have compiled a list of useful websites containing data on the issue of COVID-19 in prisons in different EU Member States (enclosed as Annex 2). We also intend to publish the links to the relevant websites on the e-Justice Portal.
While most Member States have temporarily suspended all physical transfers of prisoners under Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA of 27 November 2008, I would like to draw your attention to the Commission Handbook on this Framework Decision, which was recently adopted. The Handbook aims to assist the national authorities in issuing and executing requests for the transfer of custodial sentences and the transfer of sentenced persons in the European Union. It guides them through every step of the transfer procedure. It also provides an explanation of the most important case law of the CJEU. As stated in the Handbook where the transfer of a sentenced person "is prevented by unforeseen circumstances, the competent authorities of the issuing State and the executing State shall immediately contact each other. Transfer shall take place as soon as these circumstances cease to exist."
Secondly, the COVID-19 crisis has an immediate impact on judicial cooperation in criminal matters, such as under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). During the current crisis, we need a swift and efficient exchange between Member States in the sensitive surrender proceedings. As I mentioned during the video conference, the Commission will launch, in close cooperation with Eurojust, the European Judicial Network and the General Secretariat of the Council, an EAW coordination group. The group may also be useful for other situations where a fast exchange between Member States is required, for example in reaction to judgments of the CJEU, having a direct impact on the smooth functioning of the EAW.
Third, the protection of victims is a pressing issue. The situation of the victims is aggravated by social distancing and isolation. Persons with an abusive partner and children with abusive parents are on the one hand more exposed to coercive control, violence and neglect and on the other hand, their access to support and protection is more limited
Special measures of support and protection for victims and witnesses of domestic violence should be therefore taken within the national COVID-19 emergency schemes. In particular, it is crucial to ensure effective access to on- and off-line support services, including psychological aid and other social services. National enforcement authorities should also be particularly vigilant to the registered and new cases of domestic violence. It is also crucial to ensure physical protection of these victims. Together with Commissioner Dalli, I encourage you to keep shelters and emergency housing available to all women and children who need to leave their homes for protection, and to facilitate access to these services. In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the letter sent by Commissioners Kyriakides, Dalli and Schmit to the Ministers for Health and the Ministers for Equality on 8 April 2020. In this letter, my colleagues urge the Ministers to use the support available under various financial instruments to ensure that the vulnerable groups of society, which are particularly affected by the crisis, are protected as much as possible.
The Commission is paying great attention to all victims of crime, including the most vulnerable victims, such as victims of domestic violence. These aspects will be highlighted in the future EU Strategy on Victims' Rights (2020-2025).
Finally, I would also like to draw your attention to important guidance issued on 8 April 2020 in the form of a Commission recommendation on a common Union toolbox for the use of technology and data to combat and exit .from the COVID-19 crisis, in particular concerning mobile applications and the use of anonymised mobility data. We are also working, in consultation with the European Data Protection Board, to issue guidance on the data protection and privacy related aspects of the use of various apps in the context of the COVID-19 emergency.
I count on your support and our close collaboration as we go through this crisis together. The justice area has an important contribution to make to help our citizens and businesses in this time of need We will continue to work hand in hand with the Croatian Presidency and each of you and I hope that we can review our joint recovery response in the near future.
 Commission notice — Handbook on the transfer of sentenced persons and custodial sentences in the European Union, OJ C 403/2 of 29.11.2019.
Extension of exceptional measures at the European Court of Human Rights: https://www.ccbe.eu/fileadmin/speciality_distribution/public/documents/PD_STRAS/EN_PDS_20200316_ECHR-is-taking-exceptional-measures.pdf
European Court of Human Rights is taking exceptional measure:
The CoE 2020 Data Protection Report, focusing on "Digital Solutions to fight COVID-19" provides an analysis of the impact on the rights to privacy and data protection of the legislative framework and policies adopted by governments to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statement by the President of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) on the role of judges during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons and challenges: https://www.coe.int/en/web/ccje/-/statement-by-the-president-of-the-ccje-on-the-role-of-judges-during-and-in-the-aftermath-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-lessons-and-challenges
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Information Document was sent to all 47 Council of Europe member states yesterday.
The toolkit is designed to help ensure that measures taken by member states during the current crisis remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time.
The document covers four key areas:
- Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency
- Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures
- Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education
- Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.
The Information Document also refers to new advice from the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention on the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes.
Council of Europe: Covid19 Council of Europe anti-torture Committee issues “Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty”
Statement available here: https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/covid-19-council-of-europe-anti-torture-committee-issues-statement-of-principles-relating-to-the-treatment-of-persons-deprived-of-their-liberty-
06 May 2020 : Synthetic overview of how justice systems have faced up to the Covid-19 pandemic, By Jean-Paul Jean, Honorary President at the Court of Cassation, France:
- EN: https://rm.coe.int/presentation-jpj-10-juin-en-coronavirus-md-16-juin-2020/16809eb8ac
- FR: https://rm.coe.int/presentation-jpj-10-juin-fr-coronavirus-md-16-juin-2020/16809eb8ad
- The CEPEJ calls on member States to take up the challenges for judicial systems after the COVID-19 pandemic / La CEPEJ appelle les Etats membres à relever les défis pour les systemes judiciaires après la pandémie du COVID-19
- National judiciaries' COVID-19 emergency measures of COE member States
Key country policy responses: Country Policy Tracker
What are countries around the world doing to contain the spread of the #coronavirus?
Explore the OECD COVID19 Policy Tracker to see actions taken by each country to support citizens, businesses and the economy: http://oecd.org/coronavirus/en/#country-policy-tracker
UN expert outlines urgent steps to ensure justice systems are not paralysed by COVID-19
GENEVA (22 April 2020) – The COVID-19 pandemic’s lockdown measures pose special threats and challenges to an independent judiciary, said today the Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán. He released seven key guidelines to ensure judges, justice workers, prosecutors and lawyers maintain functioning judicial systems.
“The COVID-19 crisis is already severely affecting the right of societies to an operative and independent judicial system. In this context, the lack of access to an independent justice opens doors to abusive behaviour and a risk of impunity,” he said.
The expert noted that as the health crisis erodes economic and social stability, and recessions loom, the risk of more violence and crime may increase. “An immediate streamlining of justice services to prioritise essential cases is needed and prosecution of minor, civil or economic cases should be postponed.”
García-Sayán also said the increased risk of coronavirus infection in crowded prisons could be lowered if pre-trial detentions were minimised and political prisoners, minor offenders and those who have served most of their terms were considered for release.
“Judges, magistrates, public prosecutors and their staff should get special health attention in COVID-19 testing programmes, given that they have to participate in hearings, interact with lawyers and be in contact with several authorities and groups,” the expert stressed.
“Innovation and online working is essential, especially by tribunals and judges who have to deal with human rights or a growing insecurity situation that is being envisaged. Lockdowns and ‘physical distancing’ shouldn’t prevent the judicial system from following due process guarantees,” said the Special Rapporteur.