10 August 2020 by

This judgment was handed down over two months in the past however its relevance to the present guidelines on face masks within the UK makes for fascinating studying. It’s obtainable solely in French.

A bunch of people introduced a problem to a decree issued by the mayor of Strasbourg obliging residents over the age of 11 to put on facemarks within the streets and different areas, specifically the Grande-Ile (an island within the centre of Strasbourg), from 10am – 8pm, enforceable by a superb. The duty was in drive from Could 21 to 2 June.

The claimants argued that the choice undermined freedom of motion, the fitting to safety of well being, and the fitting to respect for personal and household life underneath Article eight of the ECHR. They contended that the decree was outwith the powers of the mayor since police measures referring to well being emergencies have been reserved to the nationwide authorities and the  préfets de département. This decree was, they mentioned, unjustified and disproportionate.

The municipality of Strasbourg argued that the decree was strictly restricted in time and house and was subsequently proportionate to the particular native circumstances of the realm. Referring to the French authorized code referring to public authorities, administrative justice and public well being, and the lockdown legislation handed on March 23 2020, the respondents argued that this emergency legislation permits, amongst different issues, the prime minister to control or prohibit the motion of individuals except strictly important for the wants of well being or household.

Authorized background

The gravamen of the claimants’ argument was that the mayor’s decree had gone past his energy to situation it. The courtroom clarified that the mayor had been entitled to train his municipal police energy to stop and scale back the consequences of the covid epidemic. Below French legislation, a municipal mayor can solely act on these two situations:

  • there are “compelling causes” linked to native circumstances
  • and these measures don’t compromise the consistency and effectiveness of the measures already taken by the State. 

The claimants relied on article (521-2) of the Code of Administrative Justice which reads:

On receipt of a request justified by urgency, the interim reduction choose might order any measures essential to safeguard a elementary freedom which a authorized individual ruled by public legislation or a private-law physique accountable for managing a public service has, within the train of considered one of its powers, significantly and manifestly unlawfully infringed. The interim reduction choose shall give a ruling inside 48 hours.

The emergency legislation of 23 March 2020 that was launched to take care of the covid-19 epidemic says that

A state of well being emergency could also be declared in all or a part of the territory (…) within the occasion of a well being catastrophe which, by its nature and seriousness, endangers the well being of the inhabitants.

In accordance with the phrases of Article L. I of the Code. 3131-15 of the identical code, within the territorial districts the place a state of well being emergency is asserted, the Prime Minister might, specifically, for the only real objective of guaranteeing public well being : “1° Regulate or prohibit the motion of individuals and automobiles and regulate entry to technique of transport and the situations of their use

different powers to limit motion and implement quarantine comply with. Below the phrases of I of Article L. 3131-17 of this Code:

When the Prime Minister or the Minister accountable for well being takes the measures talked about in Articles L. 3131-15 and L. 3131-16, they could authorise the consultant of the territorially competent State to take all basic or particular person measures for the appliance of those provisions.

So far as the mayor’s jurisdiction is worried, listed below are the phrases of article L. 2542-Three of the Normal Code of Native Authorities relevant in Alsace Moselle:

The mayor’s duties are to make sure that the inhabitants get pleasure from the benefits of good policing, specifically cleanliness, well being, security and tranquillity within the streets, locations and public buildings. The mayor can also be accountable for making certain the tranquility, well being and security of the countryside.


 The abstract choose on this software dominated that the circumstances acquiring in Strasbourg revealed “no compelling cause” to justify the mayor’s decree obliging residents to put on a masks.

Below these situations, the decree [under challenge] …, which is a basic administrative police measure taken by the mayor along with the particular police measures taken by the state authorities, isn’t justified by any compelling cause associated to to native circumstances particular to the municipality of Strasbourg

The courtroom rejected the arguments of the Strasbourg municipality underneath Article L. 761-1 of the Code of Administrative Justice and suspended the Mayor’s decree of 20 Could 2020.


This ruling is price noting in that it recognises underneath the fitting to respect for personal life a “freedom of bodily look”. The decree underneath assault, which obliged Strasbourg residents to put on a masks, was not thought-about by the choose to be justified by an overriding cause linked to an area circumstance:

Certainly the alternatives made as to the looks that one needs to have, within the public house as in personal, relate to the expression of the persona of every one and thus of the personal life.

As to the Article eight proper to respect for personal life, the next commentary from the choose exhibits the extent to which this ECHR provision might be stretched:

Certainly the alternatives made as to the looks that one needs to have, within the public house as in personal, rely on the expression of the persona of every one and subsequently of the personal life.

The pliability of the fitting to respect for personal life as enshrined in Article eight proved to be very helpful for the claimants on this case. The choose upheld the fitting to respect for personal life and freedom of bodily look over the justifications superior by the municipality. 

For a broader dialogue of the judgment and the essential function of Article eight and the popularity in legislation of the liberty of bodily look, I like to recommend this post by Arnaud Gossement, which he concludes with this notice:

any interference with this proper to respect for personal life that constitutes freedom of look isn’t essentially unlawful. It needs to be justified by “an overriding cause linked to native circumstances”. On this case, within the choose’s view, the justification superior was inadequate.