HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, September 20, 2021

COVID-19, International Human Rights Law and the State-Corporate Complex

Jolyon Ford (Australian National University), COVID-19, International Human Rights Law and the State-Corporate Complex, SSRN:

This paper engages with some questions at the nexus of COVID-19 public health responses, civil-political rights under international human rights law, and the responsible governance of digital data and data-driven technologies. Section Two charts observations, since early 2020, about the claimed ‘pandemic’ of state surveillance and accumulation/processing of personal data in pursuit, at least ostensibly, of public health objectives. Section Three accordingly suggests some of the possible parameters one might erect to begin, consistent with IHRL, to evaluate the human rights compatibility of tech-assisted COVID-related state measures with respect to populations or parts thereof. Section Four then explores the utility and accuracy of analogies one might make between the sorts of COVID-related state measures under consideration here and the sorts of measures taken around the world in pursuit of public security in the ‘war on terror’ after September 2001. Section Five examines the adequacy of the international human rights law framework in the face of these two arguably somewhat distinctive aspects of the COVID era. It does so particularly in the context of both the lack of traction of the prevailing normative framework on ‘business and human rights’, as well as in the context of the degree of self-doubt expressed – by leading defenders of human rights values – about the relevance and suitability at all of the human rights frame to the governance of many social impacts of newer data-based technologies. Section Six concludes, arguing that the counter-terrorism analogy nevertheless remains apt in one respect.

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