Citizens’ Rights and Disaster Management – the State of European Legislations

One of CARISMAND project’s goals is to review the legal situation of citizens in disaster situations regarding their human rights, privacy rights, and any form of cultural rights (e.g. protection of minorities). This task is undertaken by the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH), leading partner of CARISMAND Work Package 6 “Citizens’ Rights”.

The team has already finalised their review of the European fundamental rights framework in the context of disaster situations, as well as the more narrowed research on the legislations of ten countries in Europe: Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine with respect to the interplay between fundamental right protection and disasters. Several observations were presented to the public at the First and Second CARISMAND Citizen Summits held in Romania (9 July 2016) and Malta (16 July 2016) respectively.

The WP6 Team emphasises that generally, fundamental rights could be limited in cases of emergency caused by disasters. But such limitation ought to be proportional and must not be applied in an arbitrary, unreasonable or discriminatory manner. Limitation of rights should follow a certain standard recognised by law.

Improvements in the EU legislation were identified in relation to the impact of disasters on the right to privacy and data protection, following the new General Data Protection Regulation, which now contains provisions that deal with disasters. Essentially, it contains provisions suggesting that data processing is lawful if necessary for humanitarian purposes including disaster situations. As well, the right to data protection could be limited in such situations.

An interesting publication on the topic of privacy and information security implications of emergency measures was published by Samuel Iheanyi Nwankwo, legal researcher at the Institute for Legal Informatics (IRI) to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) and team member within CARISMAND project. His article “Unlocking Wi-Fi Encryption during Disaster Response Operation: Implications” was published at IRI’s Blog in September 2016, following the devastating earthquakes in Central Italy from last August.

LUH findings on the subject of citizens’ rights in disaster management support the team’s certainty that citizens too have a duty to assist the state and the society in cases of disaster on conditions and manner established by the law.

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