The Director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj says there is a view in certain human rights circles, considering the legislative amendments, that the State has now “criminalized” the conscious act of refusing to provide consent for the COVID-19 vaccine jab.
Raj says Imrana Jalal, for instance, as reported by the fijivillage is quoted as saying “you can exercise the right not to get vaccinated, which is constitutionally protected, and the State is wrong to criminalize it”.
He says it is imperative to note that the State has not “criminalized” the conscious act of refusing to provide consent for the jab.
Raj adds it is unfortunate that Jalal has chosen to label the legislative amendments relating to the vaccine as criminalizing an individual’s decision to refuse the jab.
The Director states that nowhere in the Public Health Act or the Health and Safety (General Workplace Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations does it say that it is a criminal offence to refuse the vaccine.
He says like any legislation or subsidiary legislation, the Health and Safety (General Workplace Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations prescribe pecuniary penalties against both the employer and the employee.
Raj further says these penalties are of a civil nature and are imposed against those who enter the workplace in contravention of the amended regulations.
He says interestingly, the fijivillage article states that Jalal agrees that the State can say to civil servants that they cannot enter Government premises for work unless they are vaccinated.
Raj adds is Jalal promoting the idea of limiting such policies to only civil servants.
He further says the private sector employers, workforce and its customers or clients are also at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Raj adds the legislative amendment in this respect covers both civil servants and the private sector.
He stresses that it is also reckless and incorrect to claim that the “Government is forcing medical personnel to give the jab” as claimed by the SODELPA MP Lynda Tabuya on social media.
Raj says consent is still required by the medical professionals administering the vaccine prior to one receiving the vaccination.
The Director adds it must be noted that informed consent is predicated on the right to access timely and credible information pertaining to the vaccine.
He says there have been ample and exhaustive vaccination campaigns by the Fijian Government and supported by the international community, not coercing but encouraging Fijians, to undergo vaccination including in the vernacular about the side effects, benefits, and the need for the life-saving vaccine.
Raj adds quite contrary to those who in their zeal for political mileage purposefully peddle disinformation and trash the tireless efforts of our health workers, civil servants and disciplinary forces, the hundreds that are coming forward in communities such as the Qauia Settlement to get vaccinated, are a strong testament to the effectiveness of the awareness campaigns and dialogue in our communities.
He says Fijians are accessing the necessary information empowering them to present themselves to vaccination centers.
Raj states they are exercising their right to provide informed consent by voluntarily completing the Informed Consent Form for COVID-19 AstraZeneca Vaccine to receive the jab therefore, the constitutional right guaranteed under section 11 (3) as a non-derogable right remains intact.
An international human rights lawyer, Imrana Jalal says people can refuse the vaccination as it is their right and no person, not even the State can force you to take it but the State and the employers have the right to refuse you entry into the workplace.
Jalal has said on facebook that the employer has a duty to protect other workers.
She says you can exercise the right not to get vaccinated, which is constitutionally protected, and the State is wrong to criminalize it.
Jalal says the State cannot override that right via regulations which haven’t even been debated in Parliament. She says the taking away of a constitutionally protected right is a very serious matter and cannot be limited via regulations as this is no small matter. This also means the State cannot legislate for compulsory vaccination.
But Jalal says the right to bar entry to an unvaccinated person is also legal.
The international human rights lawyer says your choices come with consequences.
Jalal says the right to life is the most overriding human right, more important than any other right, in the hierarchy of rights, so an employer refusing entry to an unvaccinated person is standing on firm legal ground.
She says the State can say to civil servants that they cannot enter Government premises for work unless they are vaccinated.
Jalal says several different jurisdictions have ruled in favour of vaccination, for example for schools, although not COVID, but this is a precedent of sorts.
She says since the courts in other common law countries have ruled in favour for vaccination as a requirement for work or schooling then we can expect that most courts would do the same.
Jalal says the most recent one is the European Court of Human Rights, although for a different vaccine.
The ruling is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights has weighed in on the issue of compulsory vaccinations. The decision could play a role in efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic.
Parents had protested Czech rules that schoolchildren should be vaccinated to attend class
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled that compulsory vaccinations would not contravene human rights law, and may be necessary in democratic societies.
Although the ruling did not deal directly with COVID-19 vaccines, experts believe it could have implications for the vaccination drive against the virus, especially for those who have so far stated a refusal to accept the jab.
Nicolas Hervieu, a legal expert specializing in the European Court of Human Rights, told AFP news agency that this judgment reinforces the possibility of a compulsory vaccination under conditions of the current COVID-19 epidemic.
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