Limitations of civil rights should be reviewed every 5 years and abolished as soon as possible

Civil rights should be the norm and limitations the exception. That appears as an open door. However, in the last few decades many new laws and policies have been adopted limiting civil rights of people.

read more 〉

For example, surveillance has become the default and privacy is increasingly a luxury that you cannot count on. Sometimes the promotion of privacy is even regarded as subversive or raises suspicion, as if you want to create the conditions for those who are endangering our freedom and our lives. Everybody got used to the extensive security checks at airports, the sharing of personal information behind your back. It obviously doesn’t help that so many use social media to post very personal information about themselves, but that doesn’t take away that it may create problems for people who do value their privacy. Still, limitations are adopted during a time that public opinion supports the limitation of civil rights in the eye of immediate threats or dangers such as terrorism. There are usually no provisions that abolish these limitations when dangers no longer exist. The limitations on civil rights then continue to restrict people’s liberty.

That is why it would be better if any law or policy that limits a civil right would include a limited time of application. For example, after 5 years such a law or policy should be evaluated and again be passed through parliament as if it is would be a new law. Main question to be reviewed would be whether the law limiting civil rights could still be justified. That is important to not keep limitations of civil rights as the new norm, which then becomes the normal situation. Instead, governments should always seek to return to the default of liberty for people as soon as possible. Limitations are the exception and liberty the rule.

Establishment of special commissions to protect civil rights

This is something that needs to be organised and probably each government should invest in the establishment of a special commission to detect and monitor if any legislation or policies that limit civil rights is up for review and initiate that process. In addition, such a commission should have the authority to make recommendations to review any piece of legislation or policy that limits civil rights, but that cannot be justified anymore.

The composition of such a commission could consist of parliamentarians, journalists, civil society representatives, civil servants and researchers to reflect that this is a concern of all of society. It may sound as a small thing to do, but it could positively contribute to a return to civil rights as the default and limitations as the exception.