On Friday, the appeal will be filed over whether or not to maintain the curfew. Meanwhile, the outgoing cabinet is hastily trying to enact an emergency law so that the curfew remains intact regardless of the court’s decision in The Hague. What do these two things have to do with each other?
The emergency law on curfews and the appeal scheduled for Friday are two separate, but linked, issues. The sure thing is that the appeal will continue on Friday.
The curfew as we know it today is based on a special law: the Exceptional Powers Act of the Civil Authority (Wbbbg), which dates back to 1952 and was “renewed” in 1996. With this law, the Cabinet has the option to make decisions outside the Senate and the House of Representatives. In this case, there must be very urgent and exceptional circumstances.
The curfew was a consequence, with the current pandemic and the emergence of the British alternative to the Coronavirus as an urgent and unusual circumstance. The court in The Hague does not agree with this evidence. Yes, according to the judge, there is a worrisome situation, but not a “high urgency”.
According to the court, curfews have been an option to prevent infection for a longer period, and Wbbbg is dedicated to “cases that cannot be postponed due to an acute emergency.” What the judge is actually saying is that the curfew was carried out on the basis of the wrong law.
Urgent Act is already in preparation
That is why the cabinet decided on Tuesday to issue the so-called emergency law. Not because the cabinet approved the ruling, but to prevent the curfew being lifted if the court ruled against the state.
Consequently, the appeal is valid because the cabinet does not agree with the judge and at the same time is able to maintain the curfew. This is the case because the court decided on Tuesday to “suspend” the judge’s decision to lift the curfew, in other words, to postpone the appeal.
What about emergency law? The name says it all: It’s a special rule that can be served faster than usual. If the bill passes, the cabinet will have the legal basis it needs to ban curfews.
Unlike Wbbbg, the Senate and House of Representatives must agree to this. The king did sign the law on Tuesday evening, and the State Council – the government’s most important adviser – was immediately asked to advise and the House of Representatives may already debate the emergency law on Wednesday or Thursday.
If all of this goes quickly and the law is passed, it will be the turn of the Senate. If approved, the Emergency Law has been passed and the curfew will remain in effect, regardless of what the Court of Appeal decides.
Does emergency law have a chance of success?
There is a good chance that the emergency law will be approved by the House of Representatives. Although it was not necessary, the Cabinet decided to discuss imposing a curfew with the House of Representatives. Most of the parties said they supported the measure in January, as well as the extension in February.
Things get a lot more exciting in the Senate, because VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie don’t have a majority in it. But during the House debate about the curfew, however, there was also support from the opposition parties SP, GroenLinks, and PvdA. Enough for a majority in the Senate.
For example, the cabinet may have “something up its sleeve” in the form of an emergency law on Friday, when the appeal is filed – and “perhaps too much,” as outgoing Minister of Justice Fred Graberhouse described it Tuesday. Thus the chance of lifting the curfew (temporarily or otherwise) is slim.
The fact that the date for the appeal is Friday does not mean that the verdict will be issued on that day. It could also be after the weekend.