Canary Islands TSJC High Court rejects government curfew request for Alert Level 3 & 4 islands
The Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of the Canary Islands (TSJC) has this Wednesday, July 14, denied a request by the regional government to re-impose a curfew, between 00:30 and 06:00, on islands with the worst epidemiological data, that is, those that reach Health Alert Levels 3 and 4, which currently would only include Tenerife.
The petition had the approval of the Prosecutor’s Office, which argued that the measures established so far had been “ineffective” in containing the numerous COVID-19 infections recently detected. In addition, the prosecutor pointed out that the restriction on nighttime mobility would be necessary to reduce crowds and encounters, as has been shown by the numerous police interventions that have been needed to break up illegal parties and gatherings that usually happen around this time of year, avoiding the type social interaction that has unleashed the excessive spread of the virus. The Prosecutor’s Office added that, in their opinion, the measure was suitable and should be taken based on scientific considerations and as it has been confirmed by experience.
Among the arguments laid out by the TSJC in its decision, they evoked the order from May 9, 2021, when, after the nationwide state of emergency ended, the regional government had asked to maintain curfews on the islands. At that time, the Administrative Litigation Chamber ruled against this measure, a position that would later be ratified by the Supreme Court. Likewise, the Chamber referred to the judgments of the Supreme Court also rejecting curfew in various regions, as was the case in the Balearic Islands after the end of the state of emergency.
According to the TSJC, curfew “is not justified at the current risk evaluation of the epidemiological situation by the General Directorate of Public Health.” As noted in the assessment, the prevalence of economic interest and the right to work has been judged [to have precedence] over the partial closure measures: “The number of vaccinations is increasing daily and contagion no longer has an impact on health, as demonstrated by the number of deaths and recoveries and the low impact on intensive care units. Therefore, general prevention is required in specific places where the risk is uncontrolled, but not a generalised closure throughout the island.”
Regarding curfews, which were intended to stop illegal parties and night-time outdoor gatherings of drinkers, the Regional Superior Court emphasised: “The minor administrative offence provided for in article 37.17 of the Law for the Protection of Citizen Security (Law 4/15) refers to: The consumption of alcoholic beverages in places, roads, establishments or on public transport when it seriously disturbs citizen tranquility”.
The order literally explains that “no one denies the suitability of the measure to fight the disease and facilitate the operation of the Health Service, but the end does not justify any means and the agreement adopted is excessive and at the cost of serious damage to the vast majority of the population, including the young, who meet the standards.”
For these reasons, it was considered that the restriction of freedom of movement to prevent groups (known as botellones) in public spaces would be disproportionate. “It has not been proven that the situation in which the epidemic is found represents such a serious and imminent danger to health and care capacity that justifies this exception, with ordinary means less restrictive of fundamental rights to resolve the problem.”
Other communities have approved curfews
Other regional communities in Spain have approved a curfew. Among them, the Valencian Community, where the Superior Prosecutor’s Office reported this Monday that it would not oppose the restrictions requested by the Valencian Government. A few hours later, the Justice Department endorsed the curfew, between 1:00 am and 6:00 am, in the 32 Valencian towns with the worst epidemiological data.
This Wednesday, Cantabria has also imposed a curfew, from 01:00 to 06:00 in the morning, in 53 municipalities and established meeting limitations to a maximum of six people who do not live together in any public or private sphere for the next 14 days pending the epidemiological evolution of the health situation.