On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization proclaimed the Covid-19 epidemic a pandemic. They spoke about the pandemic’s impacts are transboundary, having already impacted the social realm and many areas of the economy of many countries. It has caused a worldwide catastrophe that impacts all parts of life. Hardly a surprise for the world, this has an impact on the law as well. Indeed, there has been a significant amount of legislation and legal rules, as well as judicial rulings and intellectual debates. Even in India, from the beginning of the pandemic courts and judiciary is trying their best to protect every citizen’s human rights.
Covid-19 is an unprecedented crisis. It has impacted many aspects of international law. Countries was left with no option but to take extraordinary steps in light of the unusual situation and to save lives. Extensive lockdowns, implemented to limit virus transmission, inevitably restrict freedom of movement and, as a result, freedom to exercise many other human rights. Such policies have the potential to negatively impact people’s livelihoods and security, as well as their access to health care (not just for COVID-19), food, water, and sanitation, job, education, and leisure.
IMPACT ON INTERNATIONAL LAWS
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
In general, it is emphasised that international human rights law gives everyone the right to the greatest achievable level of health and obligates governments to take efforts to avoid dangers to public health and to provide medical treatment to those in need. As a result, it is deemed that the COVID-19 outbreak rises to the level of a public health concern, justifying limits on some rights and freedoms.It should be underlined that such limits should be imposed based on the rule of law, openness, and transparency; they must be absolutely required, reasonable, and scientifically proved; and they cannot be discriminating or time-limited. Furthermore, the application of limits should assure respect for human dignity and rights.
Human rights are fundamental and universal. Human rights are essential to people’s life projects, they are core principles in most cultures (including the international community), and they define human dignity. As a result, the limitations imposed on them are restricted.General Comments 5 and 29 of the United Nations Human Rights Committee give assistance in understanding these limits. Second, some rights, such as the ban on torture, are absolute and cannot be suspended at all. Third, only those rights that must be suspended to cope with an emergency may be restricted. Finally, suspensions must be temporary, necessary, lawful, and proportionate. The proportionality requirement demands, on the one hand, that states pursue the least damaging methods feasible in dealing with emergencies, and, on the other hand, it is intimately connected to the protection of vulnerable populations.
Restrictions, such as obligatory quarantine of symptomatic persons, must be enforced in line with the law. They must be strictly essential to achieve a legitimate goal, founded on scientific facts, proportionate to that goal, not arbitrary or discriminatory in the application, restricted in length, and respectful of human dignity. Broad quarantines of indefinite duration seldom satisfy these conditions and are sometimes enforced hastily, without assuring the protection of people under quarantine — particularly vulnerable groups. Because such quarantines are difficult to implement and enforce universally, their use is frequently arbitrary or discriminatory.
COVID-19, like other infectious illnesses, provides a greater danger to communities that live in close quarters. This risk is especially acute in places of detention, such as prisons, jails, and immigration detention centres, as well as residential institutions for people with disabilities and nursing homes for the elderly, where the virus can spread quickly, particularly if access to health care is already limited. Even in economically developed nations, people in prisons, and immigration detention facilities typically do not receive proper health care. Their right to health is and can be infringed if not taken proper steps.
The pandemic has created a problem with access to justice, with court institutions immobilised and/or attempting to reinvent or adapt existing procedures to allow for access. The technological setup is still difficult for people. Although people are known to apps and gadgets there are millions of people who still do not have access to the internet. Kerela High Court considered the right to the internet as a fundamental right still many people lack access to it.
The COVID-19 epidemic has clearly had a significant influence on human rights. Actions must be done to combat the emergency, but human rights must be considered and maintained even during a pandemic.
As COVID-19 grows uncontrolled in war-torn places across the world, the concept of humanitarian access under international humanitarian law is more important than ever. Local health systems, already overloaded by years of conflict, are ill-equipped to deal with the new COVID-19 issues. Despite repeated appeals from United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General António Guterres for a worldwide ceasefire, warring parties throughout the world continue to battle and obstruct humanitarian access.To better understand the ineffectiveness of current International Humanitarian Law, it would be useful to look at current war zones that are finding it difficult to comply with the law or can explain their contempt for it. Yemen, which is at odds with the Houthi rebels, declared an agreed-upon cease-fire. However, after nodding in agreement, the rebels used the situation and began to strike. Yemen was already in a precarious position, with the Pandemic expected to infect more than 93 percent of the population.
Armed conflict or violence, as well as the COVID-19 epidemic, are now wreaking havoc on health systems in conflict-affected nations. Healthcare institutions have continued to be assaulted despite their critical functions throughout this crisis. In addition to official preventative efforts to combat the current pandemic, many armed non-state actors (ANSAs) have implemented a range of COVID-19-related actions in non-governmental controlled regions, disputed territory, and hard-to-reach locations. ANSAs, in particular, have built COVID-19 screening posts I and quarantine shelters in rural regions — frequently under their control — that lack professional healthcare or COVID-19 screening facilities.Geneva Call has reported numerous attacks on COVID-19 screening checkpoints in Colombia, Myanmar, and the Philippines; these attacks have a detrimental impact on healthcare protection, disease control, and overall crisis response.
Among the tangible steps adopted by ANSAs to limit the spread of COVID-19 is the installation of makeshift quarantine shelters and COVID-19 screening posts. Individuals’ temperatures are checked, personal protective equipment is distributed, identity checks are performed for screening record keeping, the names and locations of people returning from abroad or other parts of the country are recorded, and quarantine regulations are explained at ANSA-built COVID-19 screening posts.
International Humanitarian Law definesMedical units as permanent or temporary facilities or other units that are solely dedicated to medical purposes, such as hospitals, blood transfusion centers, medical depots, and medical and pharmaceutical stores. COVID-19 screening posts are medical units under IHL if their role is completely medical and their protection is controlled as such.
According to IHL, medical units that are only for medical reasons must be respected and safeguarded in all circumstances, and they must not be the target of an assault. Medical units shall not be assaulted or damaged in any way under the responsibility to respect. It also implies that their work should not be hampered, for example, by blocking, rejecting, or limiting access to healthcare or disease-prevention supplies and services. The responsibility to protect entails taking steps to simplify the work of medical units and to give assistance when needed, such as by easing the transfer of disease-prevention materials.
COVID-19 screening posts are protected when they provide disease preventive assistance and simultaneously act as military checkpoints. This makes distinguishing the role of these COVID-19 screening stations difficult since they may resemble military checkpoints or appear to be dual-purpose structures that provide healthcare while simultaneously serving military functions. In this regard, the destruction of dual-use objects—that is, objects that are employed for both civilian and military purposes—may be legal only if they qualify as a military goal at a given point in time.Even if COVID-19 screening posts are being used for military objectives at the time, any attack on or destruction of these sites may not result in a clear military advantage. If there is any dispute regarding the purpose of COVID-19 screening posts, parties to armed conflicts must assume they are still civilian objects in need of protection.
The covid era has been a disaster for human rights.It affected human rights in terms of access to preventive and treatment, including the right to health both physical and mental.The whole world suffered. The frontline workers became vulnerable, many women suffered from domestic violence and sexual abuse in their homes. People lost jobs and their right to life got infringed. Also,various countries were suffering from war and armed conflicts and covid 19 made the situation worse. In these countries,people’s suffered the most, and violations of human rights occurred. To overcome this pandemicWe must adopt the essential anti-virus measures, but we must do it in a way that protects our humanity. We’re all in this together, and the concept of humanity, which may influence individual, community, and state actions, can aid us in our joint attempts to address the difficulties posed by COVID-19. Whether this entails remaining at home for the sake of others’ safety, phoning loved ones, and securely checking on a vulnerable neighbor,
Societies and the globe will eventually rise from this pandemic, blinking, into the sunshine. The world will have changed, but our humanity will not. At this time, we will have the opportunity to rebuild our civilizations, making them better and stronger than before. Let us not forget the lessons acquired by those who came before us in rebuilding their countries after world wars and other disasters.
Authored By: Shreya Sharma, Student of NMIMS, Bangalore
1. Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response (March 19, 2020 12:01AM EDT), https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response
2. Sekalala S, Forman L, Habibi R, et alHealth and human rights are inextricably linked in the COVID-19 responseBMJ Global Health 2020, https://gh.bmj.com/content/5/9/e003359.citation-tools
3. What is the humanitarian impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS (17 SEPTEMBER 2020) https://www.icrc.org/en/document/what-humanitarian-impact-covid-19-pandemic
4. Oona Hathaway, Mark Stevens and Preston Lim, COVID-19 and International Law Series: International Humanitarian Law – Humanitarian Access, Just Security (November 12, 2020) https://www.justsecurity.org/73336/covid-19-and-international-law-series-international-humanitarian-law-humanitarian-access/