January 23, 2021
Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach
German district court has declared
a strict lockdown imposed by the government of the central state of
Thuringia last spring
unconstitutional, as it acquitted a
person accused of violating it.
A trivial case about a man violating strict German lockdown rules by
celebrating a birthday with his friends has ended up in a decision
the German media described as,
A district court in the
city of Weimar did not just acquit
the defendant but also stated that the authorities themselves
breached Germany's basic law.
Thuringia's spring lockdown was a,
wrong political decision with dramatic consequences for almost
all areas of people's lives," the court said, justifying its
It particularly condemned
a restriction limiting private gatherings to the members of one
household and one person outside of it.
It was this regulation that a local man violated by hosting a party
attended by his seven friends.
Yet, the judge said that
the regional government itself violated the "inviolably guaranteed
human dignity" secured by Article 1 of the German basic law in the
first place by imposing such restrictions.
According to the court, the government lacked sufficient legal
grounds to impose the restrictions since there was no "epidemic
situation of national importance" at that time and the health system
was at no risk of collapsing as the Robert Koch Institute
the Covid-19 reproduction number
had fallen below 1.
The judge also ruled that
the regional government had no right to introduce such far-reaching
measures at all since it was up to lawmakers to do so.
The lockdown imposed in Thuringia
comprehensive and far-reaching restrictions on fundamental
rights in the history of the Federal Republic," the court said
while calling the measures an attack on the "foundations of our
society" that was "disproportionate."
The decision, however,
only has an effect on this specific case, which saw the defendant
acquitted and freed from the need to pay a fine of €200 ($243).
When it comes to any
broader considerations the ruling is not legally binding, although
each German court can pass a judgment on the constitutionality of
orders issued by any authority other than the Bundestag or a
Landtag (a regional parliament).
Still, the decision has sparked quite a stir among some officials
and local media outlets as Germany currently has a pretty similar
strict lockdown in place which was imposed by the federal government
in November and repeatedly extended and tightened ever since.
This week, Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet extended the
restriction until mid-February.
Thuringia's regional public prosecutor's office already filed a
complaint against the court ruling issued on Wednesday demanding it
be reviewed and possibly overturned with the case handed over to
The decision needs to be,
"reviewed to further
develop the law and ensure unified jurisdiction" when it comes
to lockdown and its violation, a spokesman of the prosecutor's
office, Hannes Gruenseisen, told the local media.
Lockdown has been a
contentious topic in Germany as the nation repeatedly saw protests
against the measure in various cities throughout autumn and winter
At some point, the
protesters even compared their struggle to the anti-Nazi
resistance, sparking a scathing rebuke from the German Foreign
Minister Heiko Maas.