Pandemic and Quarantine: Ingredients for Human Rights Crisis?

Pandemic and Quarantine: Ingredients for Human Rights Crisis?

Author: Kaanchi Ahuja
Content Manager | Leagle Samiksha

Introduction:

Covid-19 Pandemic has influenced all areas of our lives. Further, such changes shall stay with us for long. In other words, the coronavirus is spreading throughout the globe aggressively. Presently, the active cases are 28,179,264 and the death toll has crossed 910,666 lives. [1] Due to this, the world is changing while witnessing a disaster. Consequently, to stop and further prevent the spread of this deadly virus, a universal tendency has been to declare national lockdowns.

This plan was first undertaken and implemented by China in Wuhan (the original epicentre of the virus)[2]. After that, taking a signal from such a strategy, most countries followed the suit. Further, the World Health Organisation suggested and approved the commonly accepted arrangements and manifestations pertaining to diverse forms of restrictive measures.[3] Subsequently, by the beginning of the first week of April 2020, more than 70 countries and their respective territories had implemented lockdown and quarantine policies[4].

In order to implement the aforementioned strategy, quarantine and social-distancing norms were introduced throughout the globe. Traditionally speaking, the freedom of movement is a Fundamental Right under Indian Constitution[5] as well as under International Covenants[6]. Violation of such rights shall normally be treated as a Human Right violation but such an act is treated as an exception in the current pandemic.

COVID-19 and Human Rights Violation

Quarantine measures might be seen as a restriction towards the movement of people in democratic societies. Additionally, the same can also be considered a violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948[7]. Some rights that are violated by such quarantine orders are as follows:

  • right to liberty[8],
  • freedom of movement[9],
  • right to freedom of religion and community with others[10],
  • freedom of peaceful assembly[11],
  • work and protection against unemployment[12],
  • education [13]and
  • freely participating in community[14].

Crisis around the Globe:

While dealing with this pandemic and its issue, instances of offensive human violations were seen throughout the world. These have taken place in varied forms and we can draw the following three immediate conclusions:

Firstly, the amenities of adequate health care and proper sanitization form the bedrock of all human rights. This pandemic has showcased that even the developed nations have not fully adapted to the given situation. The same can be interpreted from the rising death toll and lack of safety measures. [15] The fear still persists that if this disease could cause such devastation to the developed nations of the world, what consequences will the developing and underdeveloped countries face?

Secondly, abandonment of labour rights of the frontline health workers for adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was loud and clear. For instance, in some countries such as Zimbabwe, doctors and nurses downed tools, as per media reports[16]. Further, the tragic death of Dr. Abdul Mahbud Chaudhary, who fervently pleaded for National Health Service, made him one of the martyrs of this disease who should never be forgotten in the history[17].

Lastly, instead of ‘protecting the citizens and preventing the spread of the disease’, implementing lock-down measures gave rise to the abolishing of basic human rights of individuals and communities. In South Africa, numerous human rights complaints have been made since the first day of the lockdown, including one suspected case of murder.[18] While in Rwanda five soldiers were arrested for allegedly raping women.[19] In addition, in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta apologized for ‘police excesses’ that included the murder of a  13-years-old boy.[20]

Most importantly, in his remarks, the Secretary General to UN Security Council admonished the ‘growing manifestations of authoritarianism, including limits to media and freedom of expression’ in enforcing the lock-down.[21]

The Way forward

While quarantine measures violate the Human Rights, the UN states that for the purpose of alleviating health threats arising from the virus, the implementation of Human Rights Law has become legally valid. However, “such legal basis must not arbitrary or discriminatory and should be subjected to review[22].

During the Western Ebola pandemic in Africa, the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Africa wrote a detailed and comprehensive letter expressing certain future steps which should be undertaken to stop the contagious spread of this virus[23]. These steps are:

  • Firstly, proffering orders to security forces to refrain from using excessive force. To clarify, having a clear understanding over what is reasonable force and what is not is very important.
  • Secondly, guarantee that there shall be individualistic inquiry and investigation in case of violations.
  • Further, ensuring that national and local laws are implemented in accordance with principles of due process.
  • Additionally, the allowance of religious and education programming on television and radio to address the inability to meet for education and religious purposes.
  • Most importantly, ensuring that all people have access to food, water sanitation and medical assistance.

Conclusion:

COVID-19, coupled with Human Rights violation using quarantine measures, protection of citizen’s safety and security has acted as a double tragedy. As a result, such a situation has the impact of affecting millions of vulnerable and marginalized sections of society. Therefore, it is important to reach a plausible solution to an unforeseen contingency which has halted the entire world.

In other words, the fight against the COVID-19 should not worsen the already depleting condition of Human Rights environment. Further, the need to remove such inhumane barriers mitigates the affairs regarding such issues which pertain to hunger, disease and violence. In conclusion, working towards building a friendly and cohesive environment which upholds the moral Human Rights is the need of the hour.


[1] Worldometer, COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC (September 10, 2020, 7:00 PM) URL: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-cases/

[2] Economic Times, Sandeep Sen, ‘How China locked down internally for COVID-19, but pushed foreign travel’ (August 3, 2020, 7:15 PM), URL: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/Whathappensif/how-china-locked-down-internally-for-covid-19-but-pushed-foreign-travel/

[3] World Health Organisation, Rolling Updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (August 2, 2020, 10:00 AM), URL: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen

[4] Business Insider India, Juliana Kaplan, A third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown — here’s our constantly updated list of countries and restrictions, (August 1, 2020, 11:00 AM), URL: https://www.businessinsider.in/international/news/a-third-of-the-global-population-is-on-coronavirus-lockdown-x2014-hereaposs-our-constantly-updated-list-of-countries-and-restrictions/slidelist/75208623.cms

[5] Article 19(1)(d), Constitution of India 1950

[6] Article 13(1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights ; Article 12(1), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 1966

[7] Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)

[8] Article 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)

[9]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13.1, (1949)

[10]Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)

[11]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20.1 (1949)

[12]Article 20.3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)

[13]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26.1 (1949)

[14]Article 27.1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949)

[15] Brookings, Philip Schellekens and Diego Sourrouille, ‘The unreal dichotomy in COVID-19 mortality between high-income and developing countries’ (September 10, 2020, 10:45 PM), URL: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2020/05/05/the-unreal-dichotomy-in-covid-19-mortality-between-high-income-and-developing-countries/

[16] CNN, Nyasha Chingono, Zimbabwe doctors and nurses down tools over lack of protective coronavirus gear, CNN (August 2, 2020, 4:30 PM), URL: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/25/africa/zimbabwe-doctors-nurses-ppe-strike/index.html

[17] BBC News, Coronavirus: NHS doctor who pleaded for PPE dies (August 3,2020, 9:45 AM), URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-52242516

[18] South African Humans Right Commission, Soldiers and police face the heat over lockdown brutality, (July 31, 2020, 11AM), URL: https://www.sahrc.org.za/index.php/sahrc-media/news/item/2322-soldiers-and-police-face-the-heat-over-lockdown-brutality

[19] Humans Right Watch, Rwanda: Lockdown Arrests, Abuses Surge, (July 30, 2020, 1PM), URL: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/24/rwanda-lockdown-arrests-abuses-surge

[20] Alijazeera (Kenya News), Kenyan president apologises for police violence during curfew, (July 30, 2020, 3 PM), URL: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/kenyan-president-apologises-police-violence-curfew-200401140202740.html

[21] United Nations Secretary-General, Secretary-General’s remarks to the Security Council, United Nations Organization (August 3, 2020, 7:30 PM), URL: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2020-05-27/secretary-generals-remarks-the-security-council-open-debate-the-protection-of-civilians-armed-conflict-delivered

[22] UN Commission on Human Rights, The Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 28 September 1984, E/CN.4/1985/4, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/4672bc122.html  [accessed 3 August 2020]

[23] United Nations Human Watch, A human rights perspective into the Ebola outbreak, United Nations Organization (August 2, 2020, 10 PM), URL: http://globalhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/A-human-rights-perspective-into-the-Ebola-outbreak.pdf

Editor: Pari Agrawal
Content Manager | Leagle Samiksha

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