In: Elgar Encyclopedia of Human Rights, edited by Christina Binder, Manfred Nowak, Jane A. Hofbauer and Philipp Janig – (2022 Forthcoming)
18 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2021
Date Written: December 12, 2021
The current entry discusses several linkages between infectious or communicable diseases and human rights issues. First, the entry puts forward a brief historical note on how international law in the field of the cross-border spread of disease emerged in parallel to international human rights law. Far from being a recent phenomenon, infectious disease outbreaks have long raised questions of which legal measures by national authorities are adequate to respond to these threats. Although the global burden of disease posed by infectious diseases receded in the course of the 20th Century, events such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and, currently, the COVID-19 pandemic, gave way to questions on the extent of states' health-related human rights obligations. Second, the entry examines the interpretation of states' concrete obligations by international and regional quasi-judicial and judicial human rights bodies. Striking the right balance between protecting persons from the spread of diseases, while at the same time safeguarding individual rights and freedoms, has been a staple of debates in legal doctrine and practice. The entry shows how infectious disease-related events lie beyond the divide between civil and political rights, on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights, on the other hand. The analysis concludes by pondering whether the COVID-19 pandemic will be a human rights crucible, posing a series of open questions for further research.
Funding: This study is part of the "International Health Governance" project, funded by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. There is no specific grant number to report.
Declaration of Interests: The author has no competing interests to declare.
Keywords: Infectious disease control, international human rights law, COVID-19, regional human rights law, human rights derogations
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