Special UN rapporteurs on the right to physical and mental health, right to privacy and right to freedom of thought and speech have sent a letter to the Government of Montenegro on March 8th 2020 and expressed concern due to the publishing a list of names, surnames and addresses of persons who were issued decisions on mandatory self-isolation in the duration of 14 days due to coronavirus. The list was published on a Government website.
Although the special rapporteurs requested a further explanation from the Government regarding the specific controversial issues, the Government has not answered within the 60-day deadline, which has expired yesterday. Questions by the rapporteurs issued to the Government requested: an explanation of the legal basis in domestic law for the publishing of personal data of persons in self-isolation; a demonstration of the necessity and proportionality of the instituted measures; an explanation of measures taken to stop the stigmatisation of persons whose data was published and threats which those persons could be subjected to; a demonstration of measures taken to consider the opinions of persons infected with coronavirus on the publishing of their controversial personal data; as well as an explanation of measures taken to secure effective legal remedies to persons whose privacy was damaged.
The special rapporteurs have stated in their letter that they are concerned that the Government’s behaviour presents a violation of the right to privacy and the right to health, contrary to international obligations of Montenegro which stem from the International Pact on Civic and Political Rights, International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Concern was also expressed that there was a violation of the concept of “informed consent” of patients, which stipulates that patients must be informed and involved in the process of making decisions regarding their health protection.
The special rapporteurs have indicated that it seemed to them that Article 10, point 2 of Law on Protection of Data of Persons does not provide sufficient justification to digress from the request from Article 10 paragraph 1 of the same law, which prescribes that the processing of personal data can only be made with the previously acquired consent of persons whose personal data is being processed. Also, they raised concern that the Government has not provided sufficient justification that disputed measure was suitable for accomplishing the determined purpose of protecting lives and health and that less restrictive measures, which would protect lives and health of citizens, were not available. In the end, concern was expressed due to the stigmatisation of people and children whose identities and addresses were published, which could have lead to threats to their safety.
Today, the Human Rights Action (HRA) has sent additional information to the special rapporteurs and asked them if they will publish their additional commentary, without the Government’s declaration. On 24.03.2020, HRA notified the special rapporteurs of the measure of publishing personal data of persons who were issued decisions on mandatory self-isolation and called on them to reach to the Government of Montenegro and advise them to immediately stop with this practice of human rights violation.