The General Prosecutor Unbound

It is no secret that the rule of law in Bulgaria has been fragile for a long time, like in many other post-socialist states. Still, what has been going on in the last days in Bulgaria is extraordinary in a number of ways. It could be seen as an attack against the very constitutional foundations of the state. In this brief post, I will just focus on the last development concerning the disregard of the constitutional principle of the rule of law by one of the highest authorities in the state, namely the General Prosecutor.

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Court-Packing, Judicial Independence, and Populism

Should the US Supreme Court be reformed? Many advocate for the introduction of term limits and/or other reforms. The new “court reform” movement is interesting no matter what its actual prospects are because it seems – but we think only seems – to fall within a broad category of challenges to constitutional courts brought by populists around the world.

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Corona Constitutional #42: Platzt das Parlament?

Der Bundestag droht aus allen Nähten zu platzen – doch was tun, um diese Entwicklung aufzuhalten? RIDVAN CIFTCI hat als Experte im Innenausschuss zum Wahlrechtsreformvorschlag der Opposition Stellung genommen und diskutiert im heutigen Podcast mit Charlotte Heppner die verfassungsrechtlichen Dimensionen der Debatte.

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Das Urheberrecht als „Zensurrecht“

Das Urheberrecht wird von der Bundesregierung genau wie von Privaten zur Unterdrückung von Presseberichterstattung eingesetzt. Es kann derart missbraucht werden, weil die Zivilgerichte bei der Prüfung eines urheberrechtlichen Unterlassungsanspruchs jenseits eines engen Ausnahmekatalogs keine einzelfallspezifische grundrechtliche Interessenabwägung vornehmen. Über 60 Jahre nach dem Lüth-Urteil ist die mittelbare Drittwirkung der Grundrechte im deutschen Urheberrecht noch nicht angekommen.

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Ask the Dust

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) condemned France for violating Article 3 of the Convention, by reducing asylum seekers to destitution in such an intensity that it constitutes a degrading treatment. It asserts that the French authorities failed to fulfill their obligations under national law against three of the plaintiffs. According to the Court, the national authorities must be held responsible for the conditions in which they left the asylum seekers, who lived for months on the street, without any resources, without any access to sanitary facilities, without any means of providing for their basic needs and in the constant anguish of being attacked and robbed

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No more Piecemeal Tactics

The EU’s Whistleblowing Directive is supposed to protect whistleblowers comprehensively – but its strict implementation might do just the contrary: The protection of reporting persons would end up shattered and remain insufficient. Neither national security whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden nor persons reporting sexual offences would be protected under the Directive’s provisions – to name only two protection gaps. Therefore, a “1:1 implementation” as discussed by the German Government is the wrong way. Quite contrary the implementation of the Directive should be seen as a chance to enact a comprehensive and all-encompassing national whistleblowing regulation.

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In Search for an Antidote

In early January 2020, the Chinese doctor Li Wenliang became the first victim of what would soon become a global censorship pandemic. After warning colleagues about a mysterious SARS-like disease in an online chat room, Dr. Li and seven other doctors were arrested for spreading “false rumors.” Li had to sign an agreement warning of consequences if he continued his “illegal activities.” By 31 December 2019, the government forced social media platforms like YY and WeChat to censor content related to the coronavirus, Dr. Li and the government’s handling of the outbreak. Next, the regime cracked down on journalists, commentators and foreign correspondents covering the crisis. On 7 February 2020, Dr. Li died of the coronavirus. There can be little doubt that COVID-related misinformation can cause harm and panic. But censorship is a bad medicine that may well worsen rather than cure the infection of distrust and conspiracy theories.

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Voting in Times of a Pandemic

Last Sunday, the Croatian parliamentary elections took place. Holding the elections in the middle of a pandemic triggered a broad debate on the restrictions of the right to vote proposed by the State Electoral Commission of the Republic of Croatia (DIP) in order to protect public health. The initial voting instructions of the Commission were substantially changed a few days before the elections after the country’s Constitutional Court got involved. Before the court’s decision people who had COVID-19 were forbidden to vote.

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Sächsische Verfassungsschutz-Wirrungen

n der vergangenen Woche wurde der Leiter des Sächsischen Verfassungsschutzes Gordian Meyer-Plath von seinen Aufgaben entbunden und in die Kultusverwaltung versetzt. Was als ein beamtenrechtliches Revirement erscheinen könnte, erweist sich bei näherem Hinsehen als handfester Skandal. Der Freistaat Sachsen will und kann offensichtlich nicht zugeben, neben Orten wie Dortmund, Nordhessen und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seit Jahren eines der Zentren des Rechtsextremismus in Deutschland zu sein.

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Strasbourg Steps in

In recent months, the European Court of Human Rights has communicated to the Government of the Republic of Poland several important cases concerning changes in the judiciary. Potential Strasbourg judgements may be important in containing further undermining of the independence of the judiciary and may complement measures taken at the European Union level.

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Practicing Parity

On July 15, the Constitutional Court of the German Land of Thuringia will announce its decision on the fate of Thuringia’s controversial Parity Act, which was passed by Thuringia’s parliament, the Landtag, in 2019. Like Germany’s first Parity Act in Brandenburg, it requires that electoral candidate lists put forward for Landtag elections will have to consist of an equal number of alternating women and men, with the aim of increasing the share of female lawmakers. Several lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of parity legislation have been filed. While not all arguments against the parity acts are convincing, it seems likely that they will be found unconstitutional. Like in other countries, supporters of parity could in this case resort to campaigning for a constitutional amendment.

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To Vote or Not to Vote?

The COVID-19 pandemic poses considerable challenges to democracies across the world. This is particularly apparent with regard to the holding of elections which states have approached in various ways. States face the following tension: On the one hand, the obligation to protect the rights to health and life requires states to limit the spread of the pandemic by reducing human-to-human contact. At the same time, these measures encroach upon the right to political participation. Against that background, an intricate balancing of the various interests in light of international human rights law seems necessary.

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Entgrenztes Gezwitscher

Die Follower-Zahlen der Polizeibehörden Berlin, Frankfurt und München auf Twitter können es spielend mit den Auflagen der größten deutschen Qualitätstageszeitungen aufnehmen. Das gelingt, weil polizeilicher Tätigkeit oftmals ein hoher Nachrichtenwert zukommt und sich die Behörden den Logiken der digitalen Aufmerksamkeitsökonomie hemmungslos anpassen. Doch Reichweite ist kein Selbstzweck und das eigentlich zu fördernde Institutionenvertrauen hat in der Öffentlichkeitsarbeit eine neue Bedrohung gefunden. Dabei stellt das Verfassungsrecht einige grundlegende Vorgaben auf, welche die Hatz nach dem nächsten Clou mäßigen könnten – man müsste sich nur einmal an ihnen orientieren.

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Corona Constitutional #41: Apropos Hotspot

Während sich die mediale Aufmerksamkeit zurzeit hauptsächlich auf die neuesten Entwicklungen in der Corona-Pandemie und der Black-Lives-Matter-Bewegung richtet, droht die Situation an den EU-Außengrenzen derweil in Vergessenheit zu geraten. NIKI GEORGIOU und ROBERT NESTLER, die für die NGO „Equal Rights Beyond Borders” tätig sind, sprechen im heutigen Podcast-Interview mit Max Steinbeis über die unverändert angespannte Situation für Geflüchtete.

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Farewell to the European Constitutional Tradition

On 1 July 2020, with Russia’s coronavirus cases passing 650,000 and following an elaborate spectacle of public affirmation, the Russian electorate eventually confirmed the constitutional amendments. First proposed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in January, the 2020 Russian Constitutional Amendments were initially planned to enter into force only three months later upon approval in an ‘all-Russian vote’ scheduled for 22 April 2020 but had to be postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus. Although many of these amendments have to be considered mainly symbolic, they constitute the most fundamental changes of Russia’s Constitution in its 26-year history.

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