Emergency measures may be necessary. But government needs to demonstrate that necessity and it needs to show every restriction is proportionate to the risk posed by the pandemic.
Add your voice to the call for a human rights impact assessment before the next phase of reopening
There is no doubt that these are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary measures.
But that doesn’t mean we can just shelve human rights. Actually, human rights should be the backbone of the public health response.
What we’re doing about the emergency laws
When we first heard there would be emergency powers, we released a statement calling for a sunset clause, or time limit on the powers. We sent our analysis to all TDs and Senators in advance of the Dáil debate. As a result, a sunset clause of 9 November was included in the legislation.
The following week we provided an investigation of the proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act.
Since the establishment of the Special Oireachtas Committee, we’ve written to them about various issues, including mandatory quarantine at points of entry, the need for a human rights impact assessment, and calling on them to examine any new regulations proposed by the Minister for Health.
We have repeatedly written to the Minister and Department of Health calling for tests of lawfulness, proportionality and necessity to be carried out and publicised.
What we’re doing about increased Garda powers
We’ve called for an end to the garda powers, and a return to policing quarantine by consent. We want to see demonstrated evidence that they’re actually necessary and proportionate before they’re extended again.
We wrote to gardaí to express our concern that they’ve ordered 16,000 spit hoods to use against people that might spit at them. Hooding has long been considered a form of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Spit hoods are no different.
We also wrote to An Garda Síochána about the increased number of armed gardaí on our streets.
What we’re doing to protect vulnerable communities
At the outset of the crisis, we called for human rights to form the bedrock of the government’s response. We continue to monitor the situation of people in institutional and care settings and those without access to shelter or sanitation.
We wrote to the Taoiseach with sister organisations to call for proper statistics on groups who are most vulnerable to the virus, and those suffering most under the restrictions.
We also made a joint submission to government about those who are most vulnerable.
What we’re doing to protect your privacy
We called on government to waive the requirement for the Public Services Card for people who needed to access the pandemic payments. It was waived.
We joined a group of data protection experts to call on the HSE to publish the Data Protection Impact Assessment, the source code and the design spec of their contact tracing app before it’s launched. They committed to doing so.
Rest assured, ICCL will be monitoring all of this very closely between now and 9 November.
We will be here in the coming days, weeks and months to make sure that the emergency measures are proportionate, and that they are wound down when the emergency is over.
Because that’s what we do. We defend human rights, in the most challenging circumstances and when it is most needed.
Our freedom is fragile.