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The ruling could set a dangerous precedent in the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that compulsory vaccination can be “necessary in a democratic society.” The decision which could set a dangerous precedent in the global roll-out of COVID-19 injections.
The ruling was issued on April 8 in response to a case brought by Mr. Pavel Vavřička and five minors, dating back to 2013 and 2014, and thus not related specifically to COVID-19.
The families, all from the Czech Republic, went to court initially after their children were refused entry to nurseries and schools due to their non-vaccinated status.
Under Czech law, children are required to be vaccinated against ten diseases — including tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and rubella — unless medically exempt. While the injections are compulsory, they cannot be forced.
The claimants argued that the vaccine requirements and subsequent infringements on their life due to not having the vaccines were a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights — the “right to respect for private and family life.”
The 17 judges decided unanimously that all complaints under Article 8 were in fact “admissible,” yet in a further vote of 16-1, decreed that there had been “no violation of Article 8.”
Court notes provided by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) admitted that “compulsory vaccination” did represent “an interference with the right to respect for private life.” However, this was defended by an appeal to a public health interest.
The fully acknowledged interference in the families’ private lives was further defended by the ECHR by arguing it had “an adequate basis in domestic law.”
The ECHR said that Article 8 had to be tempered by Article 2 (right to life), which imposed “a positive obligation on the Contracting States to take appropriate measures to protect the life and health of those within their jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, abortion is legal to one extent or another in all of Europe.
The Czech Republic’s laws regarding compulsory vaccination were thus defended as “the national authorities’ answer to the pressing social need to protect individual and public health against the diseases in question and to guard against any downward trend in the rate of vaccination among children.”
“The Court therefore accepted that the Czech legislature’s choice to apply a mandatory approach to vaccination is supported by relevant and sufficient reasons.”
Consequently, with the measures defended by the court as being “relevant and sufficient,” the sanctions which were imposed upon Vavřička were deemed “relatively moderate.”
The penalties which the five children suffered were deemed “protective rather than punitive in nature,” since it was a consequence of their parents’ decision “not to comply with a general legal duty” which was ostensibly in place for the protection of health.
“In the Court’s opinion, it cannot be regarded as disproportionate for a State to require those for whom vaccination represents a remote risk to health to accept this universally practised protective measure, as a matter of legal duty and in the name of social solidarity, for the sake of the small number of vulnerable children who are unable to benefit from vaccination.”
The ECHR sought to downplay any fears about the implications of such a ruling by observing that upon reaching the age of mandatory school attendance, the children were admitted to primary school, unaffected by their “vaccine status.”
The ECHR also noted that “French, German, Polish and Slovakian Governments were given leave to intervene in the written procedure, as were several non-governmental organisations.”
A dangerous precedent
The implications of the ruling could be far-reaching, particularly given the current global pressure to administer injections for COVID-19. Although it did not give permission for wide-spread mandatory or forced vaccination, the ruling could easily be used as a key argument in promoting such a move.
One sentence in the notes provided by the court specifically relates to the issue of voluntary vaccination, for even though it was aimed at children, it could easily be used as a basis for a future ruling towards individuals of any age.
“Thus, where the view was taken that a policy of voluntary vaccination was not sufficient to achieve and maintain herd immunity, the national authorities could reasonably introduce a compulsory vaccination policy in order to achieve an appropriate level of protection against serious diseases.”
Additionally, the ECHR concluded that the measures taken against the claimants were seen as “necessary in a democratic society,” meaning that any future human rights lawsuits against compulsory vaccinations could well be met with stern opposition from the courts.
Now that the court has decreed that mandatory vaccination is not only acceptable, but necessary, it remains to be seen how wide-spread the effect of the ruling will be across the European Union and beyond, including the U.K.
The 47 member states of the Council of Europe, which oversees the ECHR, will be placed under pressure to adhere to the ruling and any implications it will have in future judgements, particularly with regard to COVID-19 injections.
However, the ECHR decision also presents a contradiction to a recent ruling by its own governing body, the Council of Europe. Even though the Council cannot pass binding laws, its various members must respect the “the rights and freedoms laid out in the body’s treaties.”
A February decision by the Council, focusing on on the “ethical, legal and practical considerations” of COVID injections, encouraged vaccinations as much as possible, but very firmly stopped short of mandating them. The decision prohibited any repercussions for those who refused the injections.
Section 7.3.1 of the resolution, passed by a majority of 115-2, reads: “[E]nsure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is NOT mandatory and that no one is politically, socially, or otherwise pressured to get themselves vaccinated, if they do not wish to do so themselves.”
Additionally, the Council decreed that member states must “ensure that no one is discriminated against for not having been vaccinated, due to possible health risks or not wanting to be vaccinated.”
Since that resolution was passed, however, the web address has curiously been broken, with access now found using the Internet Archive.