27 May 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said it is time for the government to trust the people of Ireland to maintain social distancing and self-isolate where necessary in order to protect others from COVID19. The organisation called for an end to police powers under the Health Act 1947 (Section 31a – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 on 8 June.
ICCL has also raised data protection and privacy concerns with the potential criminalisation of people who don’t fill out the passenger locator forms which will be introduced tomorrow. ICCL says it’s imperative that making these forms mandatory must be shown to be necessary, proportionate and legal – as demanded by human rights law – before any extension on 18 June.
Since 7 April ICCL has continually questioned the need for powers of arrest for the lockdown, pointing out that policing by consensus and cooperation worked very well in the three weeks before that. The powers were first introduced for a four-day period and have been extended three times since, with little public debate and no test to determine if the powers are absolutely necessary or proportionate to the risk, as demanded by human rights law.
Director of ICCL Liam Herrick said
“We are very concerned by the pattern that’s emerging with regard to these regulations. We have never seen the test to show their necessity or proportionality, and we would now question whether they are legal even under the emergency legislation introduced to deal with the pandemic. The public health context has changed so significantly that we believe the legal conditions for these regulations – that the State is an affected area, and that additional police powers of arrest are necessary – no longer exist”.
Regarding the passenger locator forms, ICCL welcomes the clarification that personal data collected in the forms will be deleted no later than 28 days after the form is submitted. However, we have unanswered questions regarding who has access to them; how this information is retained; and who has oversight.
Mr Herrick continued
“These are all considerations that should have been explored transparently in a democratic process such as before the Special Oireachtas Committee in advance of introducing the measures. This should have been done to ensure steps taken are effective and the least intrusive on rights and freedoms.”
ICCL wrote to the Department of Health on 20 May to highlight our concerns from a human rights perspective and the lack of transparency around the regulations. We have written to both the Minister and the Department on a number of occasions expressing these concerns since the beginning of the pandemic without receiving a substantive reply.
Read our latest letter to the Department of Health here: https://www.iccl.ie/200520-letter-to-dept-health-covid-regs/
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.
For comment: Liam Herrick
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