Jeddah 23rd March 2020: The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condoles the loss of thousands of precious lives resulting from the ongoing pandemic of corona virus, which has infected hundreds of thousands in almost all parts of the world with devastating socio economic and health consequences. While an urgent concerted global medical response is forthcoming, States must ensure that protection and fulfillment of human rights remain at the center of all preparedness, prevention, containment and therapeutic efforts to ensure human dignity, public health and wellbeing of all individuals, especially the vulnerable and marginalized segments of the society. The well-established principles of non-discrimination and non-stigmatization must also remain central to all governmental responses, the Commission added.
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights places obligations on States to protect and fulfil ‘the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’, including necessary steps to be taken for the “prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases”. The Commission understands that, in the wake of ongoing global public health emergency, States are legitimately resorting to exceptional protective and preventive measures, which include lockdowns, quarantines, travel bans and curfews etc. While justified under the international human rights law, care should be taken to ensure that these measures must be nondiscriminatory, proportionate, precisely framed and must be subject to review as soon as the situation improves. Particular attention must be paid to provision of social protection and basic life amenities for people on lower incomes and those working in the informal sector with no safety nets thus adversely affected. Also, special attention should be paid to protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of society i.e. the elderly, people with pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities, poor and homeless, Internally Displaced Persons, refugees, migrant workers, asylum seekers, women and children.
COVID19 response would test the strength of bonds of human solidarity and collective responsibility. Developing States’ response could be truncated due to capacity of their health systems to effectively cope with the challenge. The right to health includes the obligation to provide international cooperation and assistance. IPHRC, therefore, urges the developed States to provide technological and financial support to the developing states as well as share information and treatment options, in a transparent and effective way to deal with the crisis.
While appreciating the timely guidelines, advisories and early warning information made available by the World Health Organization and other Governmental and Non-Governmental entities as well as the resilience and courage of the healthcare workers in the affected countries, the Commission urges the individuals and private sector to fully comply and cooperate with the State authorities in implementing health and safety precautions.