Court demands opinion on German school closures

Were the school closures legal during the pandemic? The European Court of Human Rights apparently has some questions for the federal government.

According to a media report, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has asked the federal government to comment on the school closures during the corona pandemic. As the “Welt am Sonntag” reported, the Federal Ministry of Justice confirmed the receipt of a catalog of questions from the court on the so-called federal emergency brake.

The federal emergency brake came into force at the end of April 2021 and expired at the end of June of the same year. It provided for restrictions on public life if the new corona infections in a district exceeded certain values. This included school closures.

According to the report, the European Court of Human Rights set a deadline of April 12 for the German government’s response. Among other things, he demanded an answer to the question of whether the child’s well-being was actually the central criterion for the renewed school closures. The judges also wanted to know to what extent the effects of previous school closures during the pandemic period had been taken into account in the decision-making process.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the complaint

In addition, the ECtHR asked the government to provide information on the “availability, scope and duration of alternative educational opportunities” at the time, such as hybrid learning opportunities, online classes and emergency in-school care.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg: The ECtHR sent the federal government a catalog of questions.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg: The ECtHR sent the federal government a catalog of questions. (Quelle: IMAGO/Winfried Rothermel)

In May 2022, the lawyers Axel Koch and Bernhard Ludwig filed a complaint against the Federal Republic of Germany with the ECtHR. The Federal Constitutional Court had previously dismissed her complaint about the school closures. As long as the state can rely on scientific expertise that has not been clearly refuted, the judges ruled, the school closures to protect risk groups were justifiable.

German authorities and courts must implement the case law of the ECtHR. The fact that the court sent out a list of questions indicates that the judges are taking the case seriously, the newspaper wrote. Only around two percent of the complaints against Germany that are received by the ECtHR each year are sent to the federal government with a request for comments.

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