Derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Executive summary of the briefing

  • Article 15 ECHR should be used to accommodate ‘lockdown’ powers necessary to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Failure to use Article 15 ECHR risks normalising exceptional powers and permanently recalibrating human rights protections downwards.

  • The UK has introduced “emergency powers” but has not declared a state of emergency.

  • In not declaring a state of emergency, the “quarantining effect” of the special powers is lost and states can pretend that the exceptional measures are perfectly compatible with the normal legal framework.

  • We are left with a de facto state of emergency that enables the same powers but lacking the transparency, additional oversight and supervision that should accompany a de jure state of emergency.

  • History shows us that emergency powers often outlive the phenomenon that triggers their introduction in the first instance. For this reason, their impact should be as clearly defined and limited as possible.

Download the full briefing 

Contact the key author

Dr Alan Greene University of Birmingham