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35+ years of activism & feminism in Fiji

Published

25 March 2020

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Fiji Women's Rights Movement

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The NGOCHR Calls for Human Rights-based approach for COVID-19 response

The NGOCHR Calls for Human Rights-based approach for COVID-19 response

25/03/2020

The public's reaction and national responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic must be respectful of human rights.

The NGO Coalition for Human Rights is concerned about the recent dissemination of private information by the Ministry of Health that listed the names and addresses of passengers that were on the same flight as the first confirmed COVID-19 patient. The passengers had yet to make contact with authorities to take the necessary precautionary and quarantine measures. The list of 82 names included residential addresses.

“There are important privacy issues that need to be considered and the consequences of revealing the personal details of people in a situation like this. The passengers are being exposed to online vilification and bullying and there have been allegations that the list included passengers who had already come forward to authorities,” said NGOCHR Chair Nalini Singh.

The right to privacy for citizens is protected under the Fiji Constitution Section 24:

24.—(1) Every person has the right to personal privacy, which includes the right
to—
(a) confidentiality of their personal information;

The NGOCHR understands that in the context of a serious public health threat to the nation, restrictions to some rights can be justified if strictly necessary and proportionate to the situation.

“In times of crisis such as the COVID 19 pandemic, where there is a lot of disruption to our lives and there is a level of threat and severity, we cannot immediately resort to such actions that threaten human rights. This response from the Ministry that detailed people’s home addresses could have potentially further put them at risk.”

Just recently we have witnessed the vilification of the patient confirmed with COVID 19 together with his family. As stakeholders we must continue to uphold people’s human rights even in a crisis situation like this.

Ms. Singh said that responsive measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19 are critical but there must be a level of sensitivity that ensures the rights of all people are respected.

“The NGOCHR urges the government to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive response framework that engages with civil society, NGOs and other relevant organisations,” said Ms Singh.

The NGOCHR notes the efforts by government to ensure accurate information is being circulated, through the press conference as well as the different responses and measures being taken in the health sector. The police and security forces are also reminded to act within the same realms of maintaining law and order as well as respecting the human rights of everyone.

The NGOCHR is monitoring the situation and calls for everyone to work together.

The NGOCHR acknowledges the hard work put in by the medical professionals and other resource personnel working around the clock to deal with this crisis.

“We must support each other at this time. We must remain calm and work with each other to ensure everyone’s safety. Look out for each other, observe the official advisories and statements being provided by government and stay safe,” said Ms Singh.


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