The wearing of a compulsory mask outdoors in Paris was suspended by the administrative court of the capital on Thursday January 13 in the evening. Lawyer Jean-Baptiste Soufron, who had lodged an appeal against the measure, believes that it is “a good decision, we must salute it”.
Wearing a mask outside in Paris everywhere and all the time, “it is an ineffective measure, too broad and embarrassing for everyone, infringing on everyone’s freedoms, when we know very well that it is ineffective”, he continued. “We can’t do political communication like that on people’s backs”, denounced Jean-Baptiste Soufron.
Joined by franceinfo, the Paris police headquarters does not wish to react at this stage.
franceinfo: In whose name did you denounce this prefectural decree before the administrative court of Paris?
Jean-Baptiste Soufron: It was a request made by myself and by three law professors (Paul Cassia, Laura Vitale and Samuel François). It was quite obvious that this totally general obligation to wear a mask throughout Paris, including at times when the streets are empty and at times when there is no one, was manifestly disproportionate and could not be taken that way. We had already made a first appeal a few dozen days ago, which had been rejected on the grounds that there did not seem to be any urgency. And we made this second appeal, perhaps argued in a slightly different, more precise way. The main problem is that when you take a measure that restricts freedom, when you impose something on everyone, in general, it is important that the measure taken be both necessary […] and strictly proportionate.
Isn’t that the case here?
Everyone agrees that the virus does not necessarily spread in empty streets or when people are far enough apart. There are places that are empty, where people are quiet. We can clearly see that there are times when we want to force the wearing of a mask outdoors, for example in certain gatherings or on store exits. But at that time, you have to target these places precisely, so that people know when the mask should be worn or not. The fact of deciding that it is worn all the time for everyone, that was not acceptable from the point of view of the rule of law.
Why do you think you won your case?
There have been several series of legal actions that have been taken against this decree. The Council of State this week arrived recalling this obligation, that measures of this type are strictly proportionate and that they are necessary. We cannot take any action just to give the impression that we are going to act. It is a measure that is in fact ineffective, too broad and inconvenient for everyone, infringing on everyone’s freedoms, when we know very well that it is ineffective. […] You can’t do political communication like that on people’s backs, especially in times of Covid-19. There is a rule of law to respect. The law guarantees, precisely, that we are going to pay attention to the different stages that make it possible to control the measures taken by the administration and by the government.
Do you think the prefecture will issue a new order?
When they showed up [au tribunal administratif], we had to explain ourselves, say why we wanted this decree to be cancelled, it is not automatic. At the time of this debate, the prefecture had zones and times in mind. But they said: “midnight to midnight is already a schedule“. And then, when they realized that the text on the end of the state of emergency was not enough, they wanted to apply a text that dates from Napoleon. We have the impression of being faced with a certain unpreparedness, with not necessarily serious responses from the prefecture, the administration and the government. Or, this obligation to wear the mask was a pretext to make a little agitation, to show that they were present […] Or, indeed, it is useless, and it was perhaps not the measure to be taken. I think that on this subject, now, we must stop wasting time.