by Pauline Canham and Lauren Ng
COVID-19 Update – Stories from around the world…
Contact-tracing apps challenge the right to privacy
Countries, like the UK, looking to introduce a track-and-trace app to tackle the spread of coronavirus, would do well to learn the lessons from already-introduced schemes. There is widespread concern about rights to privacy, freedom of movement and a slide towards totalitarian-style surveillance becoming a permanent fixture. The Gulf state of Qatar has now introduced a contact-tracing app called EHTERAZ, which, since last Friday, is compulsory to download and use when leaving home. Those not doing so face a fine of $55,000 or up to 3 years in prison. Unfortunately, the security vulnerabilities of the app were not ironed out before its release, exposing those who had downloaded it to being easily hacked for extremely sensitive personal data such as name, health status and exact GPS location. Amnesty International alerted Qatari authorities and have been assured that the issues were dealt with immediately and security fixes released within 24 hours. Claudio Guarnieri, Head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab, said: “If technology is to play an effective role in tackling the virus, people need to have confidence that contact-tracing apps will protect their privacy and other human rights.”
Community transmission underway in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camps
15,000 Rohingya have been quarantined in one area of the huge refugee camps of Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Despite strict limitations on movement which have delayed the onset of the virus, it is now beginning to spread, prompting concern from Chief Health official, Mahbubur Rahman. “We are very worried because the Rohingya camps are very densely populated. We suspect community transmission (of the virus) has already begun,” Overcrowding makes social distancing impossible and there is a lack of awareness of the virus, because the refugees are not permitted access to information, which adds to the difficulties of preventing the spread of infection. Another concern is the impact on women of lockdown, with gender-based violence on the increase.
The humanitarian implications of COVID-19 in Yemen
With humanitarian aid reduced, funding pledges not being met and hospitals hit by air strikes, the victims of the war on Yemen, especially those living in displacement camps are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Epidemiologists have estimated that coronavirus could infect 55 percent of Yemen’s population, some 16 million people. Yemen’s health service was already collapsing under the weight of 5 years of intense war, famine, lack of fuel and overwhelming disease such as the annual cholera epidemic. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that that people are being “turned away due to a lack of oxygen, they do not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)”. In a statement on May 14, Save the Children said nearly 400 people in Aden were reported to have died of coronavirus-like symptoms in just one week.
COVID-19 Protestors attacked by police in Ecuador
Protestors were beaten with clubs by police in Ecuador as they peacefully protested against the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 40 protestors were met with force by 15 police, with several protestors being injured, journalists attacked and 4 human rights advocates detained, though they were released the following day after a judicial hearing found them not guilty of any crime.
Human Rights part of COVID-19 planning in East Africa
Africa Day was marked this week on 25th May, under the theme ‘Silencing the Guns in the context of COVID-19’, to commemorate the founding of forerunner to the African Union, the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, in Addis Ababa. In that same city, UN workers are fighting to keep human rights front and central of the plans to tackle coronavirus. Ensuring healthcare access, while protecting against discrimination is vital, and the office has also organised webinars to support human rights defenders, particularly women’s rights campaigners. The other important element of their work is to monitor violations and limitations of rights, brought about through exceptional policies during a state of emergency, such as freedom of movement, freedom of speech and association and the right to education and health. Nwanneakolam Vwede-Obahor, Head of the UN Human Rights East Africa Regional Office said the pandemic had “exacerbated all of the issues we had pointed out before it began, such as poverty, the lack of access to quality education and the lack of access to health services.”
Other stories in focus…
International Criminal Court’s investigations into the situation in Palestine
Earlier this week, Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, released a statement condemning the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) pursuit on the war crimes committed on Palestinian territory. Pompeo threatened that the US administration will “exact consequences” if the ICC continues with its investigations.
The ICC judges have yet to confirm their decision as to whether it maintains jurisdiction in Palestine. Both Israeli and Palestinian authorities have failed to adequately investigate the crimes committed throughout the conflict. It has been argued that should the ICC be permitted to carry out an impartial examination of these crimes, it would allow measures of accountability to be upheld, ensuring victims are given appropriate recourse to the rights and dignity they deserve.
Spotlight on Biodiversity Day 2020
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the link between health and its interaction within the global ecological system has been highlighted, reminding us of the importance in conserving sustainable resources.
May 22 is recognised as International Day for Biological Diversity. Released on this day, State of The World’s Forests report underscored that nearly 420 million hectares of forests have been lost due to ongoing land expansion, contributing to the destruction of biodiversity. This deforestation has predominantly been attributed to large-scale agriculture expansion carried out by commercial entities, namely cattle ranching, soy bean cultivation and palm oil.
Other stories making the news around the world
- Can Covid-19 Help Ease the Climate Crisis? (Human Rights Watch)
- COVID-19: New women-led UN initiative aims to save lives and protect livelihoods (UN News)
- Rwanda genocide: How Félicien Kabuga evaded capture for 26 years (BBC)
- Somalia looks to first full elections in 51 years, despite COVID-19 crisis (UN News)
- Victims of intercommunal violence in South Sudan deserve ‘justice, truth and reparations’: Bachelet (UN News)
- UN welcomes three-day ceasefire announcement by Afghan government and Taliban during Eid al-Fitr (UN News)
- Coronavirus: Sleepless nights for doctors in a war zone (The Guardian)
- Hong Kong: Beijing Threatens Draconian Security Law (Human Rights Watch)
- Japan lifts coronavirus emergency in all remaining areas (ABC News)
- Doctor who raised concerns over PPE shortage admitted to mental hospital (BBC)
- Myanmar: Imagery Shows 200 Buildings Burned (Human Rights Watch)
- Marie Cau: First transgender mayor elected in France (BBC)
- Malta: Disembark Rescued People (Human Rights Watch)
- Has coronavirus changed the UK justice system forever? (The Guardian)
- In pictures: Indigenous nurse on frontline in virus fight (BBC)
- Venezuela: Urgent Aid Needed to Combat Covid-19 (Human Rights Watch)
- Trans Mountain pipeline: Protest ban is ‘great time’ to build, says minister (BBC)
- Investigators Say One Man Shot Ahmaud Arbery. Why Are Three Charged With Murder? (New York Times)
- Why Native Americans took Covid-19 seriously: ‘It’s our reality’ (The Guardian)