Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore

The massive consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are felt throughout the world, not the least in our daily work as scholars and practitioners. While the effect of the pandemic upon the political, legal, and economic systems have been widely debated also on this blog (see here, here, here), the last months have also brought about one of the most rapid and encompassing structural transformations in both academia and legal practice. Reflections on its consequences upon academia were so far overshadowed by more imminent concerns such as the reopening of campuses, student mobility, and mass layoffs in higher education. Yet, many of the changes brought about by the pandemic are here to stay on a long-term basis, hence, this post attempts a first sketch of a critical reflection by discussing some of the potentials and challenges posed by the “Zoomification” of our working lives.

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Chasing reality

This year, like every year, saw the usual spate of data and publications aimed at tracking and analysing changes in the Rule of Law. This year, unlike every other year, has seen a global pandemic of hitherto unknown proportions. We have seen extreme changes to institutional powers, the balance between institutions, and new innovations in digital courts and parliaments. These changes render much of the painstakingly collected and analysed data on the Rule of Law out of date.

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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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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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Children in Lockdown

Medically (while more scientific studies are necessary), COVID-19 largely seems to have little impact on children. However, children have been deeply affected by the lockdowns implemented to protect everyone else’s vulnerability. There is one issue which has so far received scant attention in the Covid-19 English-language constitutional law analysis, namely that of the ramifications of domestic lockdowns for children’s constitutional protections. Using Norway as a case study, we identify a set of issues and propose how a critique could have been articulated.

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New Salt into an Open Wound

The entry ban imposed by the Japanese government on April 3 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has shed a new light on the somewhat “schizophrenic” situation that foreign nationals in Japan often find themselves in. While the Japanese government is slowly trying to open the labor market for foreign talent, launching internationalization campaigns at universities and building towards an international image surrounding the upcoming Olympic Games, the reality of foreign workers’ rights protection in Japan looks bleak in many respects. In fact, foreign residents in Japan still face social and legal discrimination of various kinds.

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Haftung auf Umwegen

In einem fleischverarbeitenden Betrieb sowie dessen Umfeld in Rheda-Wiedenbrück stiegen die Infektionen mit COVID-19 vor kurzem explosionsartig an. Auch weil es in den Unternehmen womöglich zu Verstößen gegen Corona-Auflagen kam, kündigten mehrere Politiker an prüfen zu lassen, ob das Unternehmen herangezogen werden könne, um für die verursachten Kosten aufzukommen. Während sich die Haftung eines Unternehmens gegenüber Privaten durchaus begründen lässt, sieht es im öffentlichen Recht anders aus: Die eher unelastischen Vorschriften namentlich des Gefahrenabwehrrechts stoßen hier schnell an Grenzen, und es zeigt sich, dass das öffentliche Recht auf solche Konstellationen nicht vorbereitet ist.

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No unity in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has not achieved a unified approach towards COVID-19. Rather, the crisis has exposed the transformation of the UK into nations pulling in quite different directions. This post will discuss the disunity in the British response to coronavirus, focusing on the Scottish and British governments. COVID-19 illustrates the political and legal instability of the British constitution as the country exits the European Union.

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Inherited Confusion

Necessitas non habet legem, this ancient maxim meaning that necessity has no law appears to be applicable to Tunisia during the pandemic. The Tunisian authorities rapidly took measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak. But the broad language used in the legal texts ruling the COVID-19 crisis – such as the constitution and the various governmental and presidential decrees – combined with legal doctrine likening Tunisia’s constitutional emergency clause to that of France have added to the confusion of power. This is not only endangering the newly installed democratic government but illustrates how the adoption of a foreign constitutional framework impacts new democracies, making it difficult for the Tunisian constitutional system to evolve.

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