Coronavirus: Belgium’s tracking plans worry human rights organisations
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Coronavirus: Belgium’s tracking plans worry human rights organisations

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Three human rights organisations have expressed concern to the federal government on the issue of using technological tracking solutions in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

“Human rights must not become collateral victims” of the fight against the virus, the International Federation for Human Rights, Ligue des droits humains and Liga voor Mensenrechten said on Friday in an open letter to the Belgian federal government.

The three groups denounced the tracking plans outlined by Federal Minister Philippe De Backer, head of the task force in charge of mouth masks, in the Chamber’s Health Commission on Wednesday, calling them “excessive” and “premature,” and urged the authorities to focus on other ways to end the crisis before “resorting to these measures, that violate basic individual rights.”

They warned that “exceptional measures in exceptional circumstances” came with a “non-negligible risk of gradually and permanently developing an undesired social model,” so information collection and sharing should not go beyond measures strictly limited to the coronavirus. Such measures must also respect privacy, be clearly limited in time and comply with pre-established criteria, while the need for maintaining them must be regularly examined, they said.

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The human rights organisations see individual consent, transparency, access to information and non-discrimination as other absolutely necessary conditions for tracking.

Additionally, they said, “no contract must be concluded with businesses or actors implicated in human rights violations or that do not have an effective duty-of-care policy regarding basic human rights.”

The rights organisations called for a multidisciplinary group of experts and practitioners to be set up to monitor the tracking operation while it lasts, if it will be implemented. However, they insisted that, as things stand, “such tools should neither be developed nor adopted.”

The Brussels Times

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