ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Court of Rome has blown a hole in Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte's Wuhan virus lockdown restrictions, declaring them "illegitimate" and "unconstitutional."
Italy's constitution does not permit the government to declare a state of emergency due to the risk of public health and gives the state specific regulatory powers only in case of a declaration of war, Judge Alessio Liberati ruled Dec. 16.
The Decrees of the President of the Council of Ministers (DPCM) employed thus far to impose lockdowns are administrative acts which cannot be used to limit fundamental human rights and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, Dr. Liberati ruled.
Italian newspaper Il Giornale described the verdict as a "bombshell" ruling by the Court of Rome quoting the judge's words dismissing the DPCMs as "vitiated by violations for lack of motivation" and "by multiple profiles of illegality."
Article 13 of the Italian constitution states that "personal liberty is inviolable" and only in "exceptional circumstances" the "police may take provisional measures [to restrict such liberty] that shall be referred within 48 hours to the Judiciary for validation."
Article 19 entitles freedom of "religious belief in any form, individually or with others, and to promote them" and freedom of "celebrate rites in public or in private, provided they are not offensive to public morality."
Speaking to Church Militant, Milan-based Catholic academic and author Elisabetta Sala explained that although the ruling was for a specific case, it could have wider ramifications for freedom of worship — especially since previous DPCMs by the State had prohibited public attendance at Holy Mass.
"What really matters is that it has a much wider mainstream and social media impact, even if the ruling did not openly and directly attack specific DPCMs," Sala said. "People are now awakening to the possibility that the entire lockdowns were orchestrated illegally."
"The Church and its agencies ought to be exulting at this ruling, which implies we can go to church freely and do away with all the silly limitations recently imposed on us," she noted.
"But it is not so: the media of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Avvenire, didn't even mention the huge difference this ruling makes; our bishops are silent and are just carrying on as if all the insane measures are normal," Sala lamented.
Legal experts over the last week have debated the implications of the ruling (No. 25283), which resulted from a case where the tenant of a shop had asked for his rent to be reduced and unpaid rent to be written off since he was forced to close his establishment because of the administrative orders.
Meanwhile, a mother and father concerned about the deteriorating health effects wearing a mask was having on their nine-year-old son, filed an appeal in the Administrative Court of Lazio — the region which has Rome as its capital.
The parents won the appeal after magistrates ruled that the DPCM "compromised the rights of minors" between six and eleven years old and judged the DPCM inconsistent with the needs and rights of children who must wear a mask for hours in the classroom.
Earlier, Prof. Sabino Cassese, emeritus judge on the Italian Constitutional Court, argued that the Conte government's lockdown decree of Feb. 23, 2020, was "constitutionally unlawful" and eventually revoked by the "following decree which entered into force on March 25."
"After the Second World War, when the Italian constitution was being written, the drafters wanted to make sure that what happened in the Weimar Republic would not reoccur," Cassese remarked.
The constitutional expert warned that the government had made "fundamental errors" and "created a dangerous precedent which in the future someone else would be able to follow."
"States of emergency pose the most significant challenges to the safeguarding of fundamental rights and civil liberties," warns legal expert Nicola Canestrini.
Italy declared a state of emergency on Jan. 31, 2020, arguing that COVID-19 was an "emergency of national importance," using "extraordinary means and powers" under Article 24 to lock down the entire country, including restricting freedom of worship.
"These measures were described as the largest lockdown in the history of Europe: in fact, they establish unprecedented limitations to individual freedom and rights for a non-authoritarian regime," Canestrini writes, "such as personal liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom to profess one's religious belief."
Both rulings create a legal precedent for the Church and secular citizens to protest against State lockdowns restricting freedom of movement and assembly and worship and forcing the populace to wear masks outdoors and indoors in a public place.
On Dec. 22, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ruled that measures restricting freedom of movement and wearing of masks during a coronavirus pandemic is a violation of basic human rights.
Austria's Constitutional Court ruled the same day that compulsory mask-wearing in schools and splitting classes into two halves to be taught in alternate shifts were illegal.
Pope Francis, a lockdown supporter, commended governments who "acted responsibly, imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak," Church Militant earlier reported.
The pontiff rebuked anti-lockdown protestors for "refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!"