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International Law

UN Security Council reform high on the agenda

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Russia’s acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear once again recently that it is high time the United Nations Security Council had among permanent members representatives of India, Brazil and the African continent. Speaking at the “Raisina Dialogue” International Conference in New Delhi, Mr.Lavrov reminded the participants in the event about Moscow’s consistent appeals for the UN Security Council to clear the current uncertainty and invite representatives  from developing countries as permanent members.

The UN Security Council plays a crucial role in the United Nations Organization – the world’s most authoritative forum for countries to coordinate their positions and secure their interests in nearly all spheres of human activity. Under the UN Charter, the Security Council answers for «maintaining peace and global security». Thus, revamping the United Nations and modernizing the entire architecture of global governance are hardly possible without an overhaul of this highly important international institution. One of the major issues to be addressed in the course of the UN reform «is to search for ways to ensure the interests of all regions and guarantee the appropriate representation of all countries»[i]. Given the situation, many UN member countries call for the enlargement of the UN Security Council.

At present, the UN Security Council consists of 15 member countries, five of which are permanent members – Britain, China, Russia, the United States and France. Each of the five permanent members enjoys the right of veto which blocks the adoption of a resolution if necessary. The other ten non-permanent members are elected for 2 years, so half of non-permanent members are replaced every year. The year 1992 marked the beginning of talks on the reform of the UN Security Council at the government level. The issue of Security Council enlargement has been under discussion since 1994. In the spring of 2005 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested increasing the composition of the Security Council to 24 members, including by extending the number of permanent members to embrace India, Brazil, Germany and Japan. Intergovernmental negotiations on the reform of the UN Security Council have been on since 2009,  «in the format of an unofficial plenary session of the UN General Assembly». According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the parties involved still demonstrate «substantial differences ….on all key issues».

The only time the number of  UN Security Council members changed was in 1963, when the number of non-permanent members rose from six to ten, while the total number of member countries increased from 11 to 15. The law makes it possible to «radically reconsider» the UN Charter and revise the powers of the Security Council. Article 109 of the UN Charter allows for introducingchanges to the UN Charter through convening  «a general conference of UN members with the support of two thirds of members of the General Assembly and nine members of the Security Council». In this case none of the permanent members of the Security Council has the right of veto.. However, no precedents of this have been reported in UN history so far. Sceptics fear that the attempt to change the Charter in such a manner may result in the elimination of the United Nations.

Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly dwelled in detail on Russia’s position on the issue of expanding the make-up of the UN Security Council. Russia is in favor of  increasing the number of members of the Security Council. Meanwhile, the reform should not have a negative impact on the governance and effectiveness of the Security Council. “Efficiency in operation” is one of the key principles. Another principle is that all regions, all centers of world development should be represented. The most reasonable number of members is “a bit over 20” [ii]. In January this year, Sergei Lavrov emphasized yet again Moscow’s commitment to the principle of fair representation of all the leading regions of the world, with the mandatory participation of developing countries. In this context, the head of Russian diplomacy said, “we maintain that India and Brazil fully deserve a seat on the UN Security Council, along with a representative of Africa. We believe that the goal of the UN Security Council reform should be to ensure a better attitude to developing countries from the main body of the Organization ”[iii].

The absence of India among permanent members of the Security Council seems particularly illogical in the past few years, if not decades. At present, India is the world’s second in the number of people residing there. And by 2025, according to UN experts, it will become the most densely populated country in the world [iv]. India has nuclear weapons. Since coming to power in May 2014, India’s incumbent leadership has been pursuing a course to strengthen the country’s international standing and its status as a regional leader and “a global player to be reckoned with”. The economy of India by nominal GDP, according to the IMF, is the world’s 5th.

All major states of Greater Asia, which is steadily turning into a global political and economic hub, as well as all external powers, signal interest in close cooperation with New Delhi while pursuing both tactical and strategic, long-term agendas. However, there are grounds to believe that in the foreseeable future, India will try to maintain its commitment to yet more pragmatic than before strategy of “non-alignment”. This would mean that New Delhi will be able to play not only an increasingly prominent role in Asia, but will also become one of the main candidates to speak for a considerable number of developing countries. India will thus be among those who seek to avoid being squeezed into the rigid quasi-block structures of the new configuration of international system.

Unlike Asia, Latin America and Africa are “nowhere” among permanent members. However, the two regions cannot come to consensus on nominating a single candidate. Among the most promising candidates from Latin America experts name Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Brazil, according to the IMF, is currently the number one economy in Latin America, the second in the Western Hemisphere and 8th in the world. Its economic and industrial sectors, unlike most of its neighbors’, are well diversified. The country has succeeded in avoiding the “resource trap”. In terms of population, Brazil is sixth in the world. The potential of the Brazilian army among the states of the Western hemisphere is considered to be the second after America

[v]

. However, a number of Russian experts say that some of the current leadership of Brazil came to power under the slogan of criticizing “Brazil’s participation in multilateral international forums.” [vi]

In the past ten to fifteen years, Africa has been attracting ever more attention of international community. The rapid growth of the continent’s population along with an increase in the share of the working population can, under certain conditions, contribute to economic growth, Republic.ru says. A number of experts believe that the African economy is capable of as impressive an economic breakthrough as Southeast Asia made in the second half of the 20th century. This is a fact acknowledged by all the leading powers. According to the Economist, between 2010 and 2016, more than three hundred new foreign diplomatic missions opened in African countries.

At present, Africa unofficially has three seats of non-permanent members ofthe Security Councils. South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria are competing for the right to represent Africa in the Security Council on a permanent basis. In the context of the transformation of the system of international relations, the development of ties between 54 African countries promises a lot in terms of boosting geopolitical influence. The opinions of African countries will play an increasingly prominent role in many international forums and in international institutions. However, given the current situation, Africans no longer need to “take   sides.” They can work effectively with different competing powers at a time. Pragmatists in the African leadership know only too well how important it is to maintain a constructive balance of interests amid competition between global powers.

Overall, it appears that a possible strengthening of the positions of India and Brazil in the UN would give a new impetus to their potential in terms of their ability to offset the influence of other powers, both regionally and globally. India and Brazil, together with Russia, China, and Africa’s second economy, South Africa, are already successfully promoting the principles of a multipolar and fair world order within BRICS. They are also developing cooperation with other leading powers in the G20. In the economic sphere, Brasilia and New Delhi are expanding cooperation with other developing countries, providing them with significant assistance in developing modern sectors of the economy, increasing their competitiveness and developing their entrepreneurship. As for Africa, as Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Hommes d’Afrique in 2018, the appearance of an African representative in the UN Security Council alone can add “more value” to its work [vii].

Skeptics fear that any enlargement of the Security Council, quantitative or geographical, “with the preservation of the right of veto and the apparent differences among permanent members on fundamental international issues … will make the process of reaching agreements more complicated” [viii]. Indeed, as  new centers of international influence become stronger, the risks of collisions and clashes of interests between parties involved are bound to increase. Under these conditions, all proposals coming from Moscow are aimed at adjusting the work of the UN Security Council so as this key United Nations body will be able to not only preserve, but also to cement its role as a top platform for resolving the inevitable world controversies.

In particular, it is necessary to overcome the dangerous trend that has emerged in recent decades. We mean that a number of states tend to bypass the Security Council, at times even trying to circumvent the entire system of international law. Sergei Lavrov pointed this out in the course of discussions under the auspices of the “Raisina Dialogue”. “If you have noticed, our Western partners are making less and less use of the language of international law. Instead, they have coined a new term, which they refer to as the “rule-based order.” “One-sided methods and the attempts to impose one’s selfish ideas on others are  moving us more and more away from solving global challenges of transnational nature.” In this regard, a number of Russian observers make it clear that Brazil and India  “call for a comprehensive strengthening of the system of international law” [ix].

The need for restructuring the UN Security Council, despite certain difficulties, is beyond doubt. What is also clear is the fact that there are new candidate countries worthy of taking the place of permanent members of the key United Nations body. However, an occasional feeling that the UN Security Council has chosen to “retreat” or that it has been “paralyzed”, without any doubt, does nothing to improve the reputation of either the Security Council or the United Nations as a whole. In these conditions, the international community needs to find solutions that will make the UN mechanisms better and more efficient without jeopardizing all the positive experience gained over the past decades. It is necessary to walk along the fine line that separates the continuation of constructive work in the absence of unanimity and the attempts to reach agreement at any cost.

From our partner International Affairs

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International Law

Curious Case Of Nirbhaya And International Court Of Justice

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On December 16th, 2012, a 23year old physiotherapy intern known as Nirbhaya was gang-raped and heinously murdered in a moving bus in Delhi, she died subsequently in a hospital in Singapore. The aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident witnessed widespread public outcry, which resulted in the amendments to various provisions of the Indian criminal law both substantive and procedural. Despite the radical reform in the criminal law jurisprudence, the convicts remain defiant and have recently moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking a stay

On 16th March2020, the Supreme Court of India (SCI) rejected the plea of one of the convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case. The convicts were slated to be hanged on 20th March 2020, following which the convicts have written a letter to the ICJ seeking an urgent hearing to prevent “unlawful execution”. The letter reads as:

“I write to you to request your support and help, in whatever form, to prevent this barbaric and inhumane punishment from being inflicted upon convicts, the death penalty has no relevance in a progressive and modern International era. Inflicting it upon prisoners, who belong to the economically most vulnerable section of society will only serve to take out international forum several steps back.”

Notwithstanding this plea to the ICJ, the convicts were hanged on 20th March. This brief write-up intends to unravel the position of individuals in the ICJ and the progressive mechanism of individual complaint mechanism under international human rights law against the State.

Access to Individual under ICJ

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations(UN) that resolves disputes between States. The issue in the Nirbhaya case with regard to the ICJ is whether individuals can approach the ICJ claiming remedies against the State, the subject matter of which is purely domestic or in short does the ICJ have jurisdiction to entertain the claim made by the convicts. According to the former Supreme Court judge of India BN Srikrishna, the ICJ has no jurisdiction to order a stay; his point is the ICJ cannot act as a court of appeal, this is true because the jurisdiction of the ICJ is based on the consent between States and not individual, this is also reflected in Article 34 of the Statute of the ICJ (ICJ Statute). Further, the entire judicial process in the Nirbhaya case was proper, ie. hearing from the trial court to the Supreme Court; the convicts were provided several opportunities to file review and curative petitions. The larger question that needs to be addressed is the relationship between individuals in the ICJ. Firstly, over the years several judges and scholars of international law have argued for amending Article 34 of ICJ Statute to include individuals; moreover, the Advisory Committee of Jurist, who drafted the PCIJ Statute ( Predecessor to the ICJ Statute) deliberated in detail the issue of locus standi; unfortunately, lack of support from majority saw the idea being dropped. Secondly, the famous dictums in the PCIJ and ICJ refer to the fact that injury to the individual constitutes an injury to the States, as asserted in the 2007 Diallo (preliminary Objection) diplomatic protection of the aliens extends to the protection of human rights; however, the extent and scope of these human rights are very much limited. Thirdly, according to HerschLauterpacht, the original purpose of the ICJ was to be a court of International Law, rather than a human rights court; thus individuals approaching the ICJ demanding Justice would require to circumvent the original intention of the drafters. Fourthly, post world war 1  witnessed the formulation several multilateral treaties to safeguard the rights of minorities, the PCIJ and ICJ through its advisory opinions had touched upon these treaties in the context of individual rights; however, the PCIJ and ICJ consistently refrained from invoking presumption against individuals rights and duties. Fifthly, the sole decision in the ICJ that has some proximity to the Nirbhaya case is the La Grand case, in which the ICJ affirmed that individual might possess direct rights under treaties, however, in the La Grand case, the ICJ did not equate the right of consular access as human rights and thus adopting a strict state-centric interpretation. Moreover, the Judgement acknowledges the fact that the individuals approaching the ICJ could invoke rights through the national State.

Sixthly, in international law, the concept of state immunity has trumped human rights or individual rights, in the Arrest warrant case and the Jurisdictional immunities case the ICJ firmly establishes the fact that immunity overrides international crimes, although the backdrop of these cases significantly differs from Nirbhaya, the undisputed fact that remains is State is protected under the ambit of immunity. Taking all these factors into account, it was on the expected lines that the convicts in the Nirbhaya case would be unsuccessful in espousing their point of view in the ICJ via a letter; moreover, the jurisprudence of ICJ in terms of cases akin Nirbhaya are none; therefore the ICJ will continue its trend of ‘State-Only’ conception of international legal personality.

Individual Complaint Mechanism under International Human Rights Law

The Nirbhaya convicts rather than taking recourse to the ICJ could have sought remedies under individual complaint mechanism of Individual Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR under Article 28 provides for the establishment of the Human Rights Committee (HRC) consisting of 18 members. The committee meets three times per year; the State party must submit a report to the HRC dealing with the implementation of the ICCPR’s provisions, after the initial report a State has to submit periodic reports, based on which the committee prepares its concluding observations. Further, the HRC is competent to entertain an individual complaint for alleged violation of an individual’s rights under ICCPR. The first optional protocol to the ICCPR comprehensively set out the procedure for individual complaint mechanism. The HRC also provides general comments to clarify the contents of ICCPR’S provisions. The Nirbhaya convicts as a final hope, could have resorted to individual complaint mechanism rather than the more state-centric and rigid apparatus under ICJ. The Nirbhaya convicts hypothetically speaking could have approached the HRC by taking recourse to Article 6(2) of ICCPR which reads:

“In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes by the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out according to a final judgement rendered by a competent court”.

Assuming that the convicts approached the HRC, literal interpretation of the above provision points out that, the crime of rape and murder falls under the ambit of ‘most serious crimes’, however, India does not have codified list of crimes which constitutes ‘most serious crimes’, it is upon the courts in India to determine the same on a case to case basis, in short, it is a matter of pure judicial discretion. The general comment no.36 on Article 6 of ICCPR on the right to life in paragraph 16 implicitly recognise that countries which have not abolished the death penalty, to lay out clear and stringent criteria for retaining capital punishment; moreover the HRC in August 2019 identified the list of issues before submission of the fourth periodic report of India, one of the issue being the elaboration on any comprehensive review of the relevant legislation to ensure that the death penalty may be imposed only for the most severe crime and indicate whether the imposition of the death penalty is mandatory for certain crimes. The legislature in India requires to frame an enumerative list of ‘most serious crimes’, which fits the death penalty template, instead of passing the buck to the judiciary.  Despite the cacophony surrounding the Nirbhaya verdict, justice was meted out to the victim on 20th March with the hanging of the convicts.

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International Law

Affixing China’s Liability for COVID-19 spread

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Authors: Manini Syali and Alisha Syali*

The article analyses whether International Environmental Law can be invoked for making China liable for the COVID-19 pandemic, which is said to have its origin in the wet markets of Wuhan, and if there exists an interrelationship between Right to Health and Environment.

The world is currently witnessing an unprecedented health crisis in the form of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is said to have its origin in the wet markets of Chinese city of Wuhan, infamous for its exotic meat products widely consumed by the local populations in the name of prevailing superstitious practices. The virus which has now affected 199 countries, has resulted in a death toll of 34,000 so far. China on the other hand is on a road to recovery and has started lifting the lock downs, which for months made its population live in isolation. The question arising at this stage is whether China should be made responsible for the apocalyptic conditions it has brought before the world community, despite its previous promises to shut down its wet markets during the 2003 SARS outbreak and if International legal framework regulating Trans boundary environmental damage is appropriate to affix this liability. An attempt in this article will, thus, be made to analyse the law on Trans boundary environmental damage in the context of contagious disease transmission across sovereign borders.

Development of law on Trans boundary environmental damage

In the Trail Smelter arbitration, the world community for the first time witnessed that the concept of ‘sovereignty’ is not absolute and no nation state can be allowed to use its sovereign territory in such a manner so as to cause harm to another nation state.The tribunal in this case laid down the principle in the following words “under the principles of international law, as well as of the law of the United States, no State has the right to use or permit the use of its territory in such a manner as to cause injury by fumes in or to the territory of another or the properties or persons therein, when the case is of serious consequence and the injury is established by clear and convincing evidence.”

The concept, however, took a concrete shape only through the Principle 21 of the Stockholm Declaration, which went on to impose responsibility upon nation States for ensuring that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

A major criticism against the primary International environmental instruments, namely the Stockholm Declaration and the Rio Declaration, has been that they remain in the form of soft law norms and never actually had any strong enforcement mechanism behind them. It would, however, not be wrong to state that this proposition does not hold good any longer and International jurisprudence has also proved the contrary. A good example of the same is the landmark Nuclear Weapons Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in which ‘the due diligence obligations’ of nation states in Trans boundary contexts were upheld by the World Court. The Court took note of the looming threats which nuclear weapons pose on the environment and went on to highlight that “environment can never be seen in abstraction but represents the living space, the quality of life and the very health of human beings, including generations unborn.” The court further laid emphasis on the general obligation of States to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction and control, respect the environment of other States or of areas beyond national control and held it to be a part of the corpus of international law relating to the environment.

A similar question was also again raised before the ICJ in the case between Ecuador vs. Colombia (2008) .The incident involved spray of herbicide by Colombia in the sovereign territory of Ecuador and it was contended that Colombia has violated its obligations under international law by causing or allowing the deposit on the territory of Ecuador of toxic herbicides that have caused damage to human health, property and the environment. The case, however, was settled amicably by both the parties but nonetheless raises interesting observations with respect to International responsibility of nation states to not harm the sound environmental conditions of other member nations of the world community.

Does the concept of Trans boundary Environmental damage hold application when Human Health is in a jeopardy?

Environment related rights have not been expressly incorporated in any of the Human Rights instrument existing at the International level. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)under Article 12 (b), has nonetheless mentioned improvement of environmental hygiene to be a precondition of Right to Health. The drafters of the Covenant with the help of this provision, thus, acknowledged the existing interrelationship between right to health and sound environmental conditions.

Furthermore, under modern day International Law, nature has never been seen in isolation and has always been interpreted in the context of socio-economic environment, artificially constructed by mankind. It is pertinent to note that both the Stockholm Conference (United Nations Conference on the Human Environment) and the Rio Conference (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) were titled in such a manner that they remained reflective of the Human development aspects attached to them. The titles further demonstrate that these key environmental law conferences and the legal instruments, which were a by-product of them, never truly focused on nature conservation in isolation from man-kind. In fact, the two leading Environmental Conventions i.e. Convention on Bio-Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) look at sustainable development as a matter of concern and  do not  have nature conservation as their primary objective. It can thus be stated that the subject matter of international environment law is sustainable use of environment by human beings.

An analysis of the above discussed legal propositions, thus, makes it clear that the currently existing International Enviro-legal jurisprudence is sufficient to hold a nation state accountable, if a contagious disease travels across its borders and causes damage of a trans-boundary nature. The reason behind this is that there exist a requirement to exercise due diligence while undertaking any activity within the sovereign borders. Furthermore, this pre-condition to any developmental or commercial activity does not remain limited to not causing harm to the ‘natural eco-system’ and includes granting protection to  human survival as well, because, the word environment under International Environmental Law,is inclusive of the man-made environment and safe and healthy living conditions of the present generation and of the generations unborn.

Conclusion

Therefore, for the purpose of affixing the liability of China under International Law, the legal framework governing Trans boundary environmental damage can be utilised, since, the spread of a contagious infection clearly demonstrates that there was a breach in observing due diligence obligations while undertaking commercial activities in the wet markets, which adversely impacted an important human right, namely, enjoyment of safe and healthy environment.

Both authors are writing in their personal capacity. All views expressed are personal.

* Alisha Syali is a BA LLB (H) Student at Amity Law School, Delhi.

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International Law

A Recipe for Disaster: Pakistan’s ‘Migratory’ Response to COVID-19 in Pakistan- administered Kashmir

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Authors: Aaditya Vikram Sharma and Prakash Sharma*

Various news outlets have reported that Pakistan is moving patients from Punjab to Pakistan- administered Kashmir. This article analyses the soundness of this decision vis- à -vis international law.

Recently, it has come to light that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is moving coronavirus positive patients from the province of Punjab to Pakistan-administered Kashmir. This territory of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan is administered through two regions comprising of Gilgit-Baltistan and the so-called Azad Kashmir.

The patients of COVID-19 are being moved to “Special Quarantine Centers” that are coming up in Mirpur and other cities in the region. The region comprises of territories that are the two most marginalized areas under Pakistani occupation. In fact, Kashmir, as a whole, is considered a disputed territory.

In this article, we try to decipher the applicable international law concerning the State-mandated movement of COVID-19 infected people in Pakistan to Pakistan-administered Kashmir. We draw out the relevant international treaties and gauge the response of the government accordingly to find out the legitimacy of these acts.

Status of Kashmir

Kashmir is considered a disputed territory. The erstwhile Kingdom of Kashmir is controlled by three countries- China, India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan claim the whole of Kashmir. The history is complex and beyond the purview of this article.

It is pertinent to note that Pakistan’s stance has been, at least constitutionally, to respect the wishes of the Kashmiri people. To that end, the semi-autonomous State of Azad Kashmir was created. But, its autonomy is doubtful—the AJ&K Interim Constitution, 1974 under Article 7(3)states that  “[N]o person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” The Government in Islamabad exercises ultimate control on its administered regions.

On the other hand, India administered its administered region of Jammu and Kashmir by initially creating the State of Jammu and Kashmir. On 5 August2019, the Indian Federal Government removed the special status and created the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The move was opposed by Pakistan which even threatened to go to the ICJ.

The Corona Virus outbreak in Pakistan

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It is especially dangerous because its infectability is perilously high—people can easily catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease, which can be fatal, spreads from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is essential to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. Pakistan detected its first case on 26 February 2020. At the time of writing, as per the WHO database, there have been 1526 total cases, out of which 25 have recovered and 12 have died. However, instead of restricting movement, the Government of Pakistan has decided to move patients from the worst affected province to a least affected and internationally disputed and underdeveloped territory. The next part analyses the soundness of this decision under International Law.

International Law

As Pakistan-administered-Kashmir is a disputed territory, it is pertinent to see what international laws apply. De-facto control of the region is with Pakistan. So, our focus shall be on the treaties that apply to it. Under the international legal framework surrounding epidemics and pandemics, the primary documents that are available are the International Health Regulations (IHR). These were adopted by the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organisation in 2005 and entered into force in 2007. These regulations are applicable to196 countries, including Pakistan. One of the main principles of the IHR is that their implementation would be with “With full respect for the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedom of persons” (emphasis supplied).So, Pakistan is required to respect the human rights of the people in its administered territories.

The primary human right which applies here is the Right to Health. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Right to Health is considered an inclusive right and includes the right to prevention, treatment and control of diseases. This is enunciated by Human Rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 (ICESCR). Pakistan is a party to both the Covenants.  The UDHR, under Article 25, states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family..”Further, explicit provisions have been made under Article 12(1) of the ICESCR regarding the health of peoples. It reads as follows-

“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

In fact, Article 12(2)(c) goes further and states that-

“2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:

***

 (c) The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases;” (emphasis supplied)

***

By moving infected patients into an internationally disputed and so-called autonomous territory, Pakistan is violating the rights guaranteed to these peoples. According to the WHO, the best methods to control the outbreak include isolation and social distancing. Most of the countries globally have gone into lockdown and restricted the movement of their populations. However, the Government of Pakistan, citing economic reasons, has been reluctant to declare a lockdown and in its wisdom, has decided to migrate highly infectious patients to a region with a relatively unscathed population.

Understandably, the locals are not in support of this move by the Government of Pakistan. So, the policy of the government goes against its stated goal to respect the wishes of the Kashmiri people. This migration of patients is being done even when the region has registered one of the lowest cases in Pakistan. At the time of writing, there are only 2 cases in the so-called Azad Kashmir province. Punjab has the highest number of cases, i.e, 558. The health-care facilities are also inadequate in Pakistan- administered Kashmir. Logic would, therefore, dictate making quarantine centres and creating better medical infrastructure in the better equipped Punjab province. Instead, quarantine centresare being established in the relatively underdeveloped Pakistan-administered-Kashmir. This move is quite baffling and contrary to international law.

Conclusion

Pakistan’s actions directly contradict its international stance and international law. In fact, its hypocrisy has taken a new tone when the Government of India offered aid during the SAARC conference and Pakistan raised the ‘Kashmir issue’. After raising the issue, it has started moving COVID-19 affected peoples from its Punjab province to its administered region of Kashmir. It should refrain from such acts and, as a matter of fact, treat them with better healthcare facilities that already exist in Punjab.

Both Authors are writing in their personal capacity. All views are personal.

*Prakash Sharma is an Assistant Professor at the Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, New Delhi, India.

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