An Open Letter to Human Rights Watch
There is no doubt that Human Rights Watch (HRW) is one of the world's most prominent human rights organizations. It investigates and brings to the air of human conscience gross human rights abuses such as torture, war crimes, police brutality and human trafficking taking place around the world. In addition, Human Rights Watch has used its advocacy to defend the rights of ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees and children in need. However, even though HRW claims to serve as a watch for some of the world's most challenging human rights crises, it appears to be asleep as the world gradually morphs into a bio-apartheid state that dehumanizes the unvaccinated.
In an attempt to address the COVID-19 crisis, several governments and organizations around the globe are implementing draconian policies, which are creating an underclass of unvaccinated people. Unfortunately, western governments have championed this scheme.
In the United States, President Biden directed the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week. According to CNN, this mandate could cover as many as 100 million Americans. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a vaccine mandate for all New York City employees. A few days earlier, New York State's largest healthcare provider, Northwell Health, fired 1,400 employees who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccinations. In addition, in a move to get more people vaccinated, the Italian government introduced a vaccine passport scheme compulsory for all workers. Any employee who fails to use the vaccine passport will be suspended without pay and pay a fine.
The extreme levels of coerciveness happening in Australia deserves special mention. Australia, for want of a better word, has become the Covid-19 Tyrannical Capital of the world. Dominic Perrottet, the Prime Minister of New South Wales, has implemented a number of discriminatory policies against the unvaccinated that would make despots around the world green with envy. Apologies if I bore you, but are you aware that in New South Wales, if you are not fully vaccinated, you cannot visit another person's place of residence? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you can only participate in a gathering for sport or exercise with one other person or your household? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you cannot visit a retail hairdresser, beauty salon, or massage premises? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you cannot visit a hospitality venue except for takeaway? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you cannot visit entertainment facilities, such as a cinema, theatre, musical hall, concert hall, dance hall, or drive-in cinemas? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you cannot attend a place of worship? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you can only travel in a vehicle with people you live with? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you cannot visit a public swimming pool, either indoor or outdoor? Are you aware that if you are not fully vaccinated in New South Wales, you can only attend a small wedding service of 11 people, and you MUST be seated while consuming alcohol and while eating and drinking? Doesn't this remind you of 19th century Jim Crow America?
The west has long prided itself in exporting its so-called western values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights to the rest of the world. This time around, the west is exporting the oppressive use of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports to the utmost parts of the world. In Nigeria, the Governor of Ondo State stated that only the vaccinated could enter churches, mosques, hospitals, government offices and other public places after a two-week grace period. In June 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines threatened to arrest citizens who refused the Covid-19 vaccination.
The government's discriminatory practices against the unvaccinated contravene international law. The UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights protect individuals from undergoing coerced medical interventions without their prior, free and informed consent. Paragraph 7.3 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 2361 states that member states should ensure that citizens are informed that vaccination is not mandatory and that no one is under political, social or other pressure to be vaccinated if they do not wish to do so. The Nuremberg Code states that medical experimentation must have the fully informed and voluntary consent of the human subject. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state, while Article 3 states, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
Besides using vaccine mandates and passports to coerce people, western governments have embraced disaster white supremacy by using the pandemic as an excuse to implement immigration controls that keep black and brown people at bay. Currently, western countries have vaccinated a considerable segment of their population. In Italy, Australia, the USA, and France, 72.1%, 62.5%, 58%, and 67.9% of its population have been double vaccinated. In contrast, developing countries have a low level of their population vaccinated. For instance, the vaccination rates in Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon are 1.4%, 2.8% and 0.6%, respectively. When the United Kingdom initially implemented its traffic light system of requirements for travellers to the UK, it created a very stringent requirement for people from a so-called red list of countries. This included travellers quarantining for ten whole days in a managed quarantine hotel at their own expense upon arrival in the country. However, through a strange formula, the red list of countries comprised predominately black and brown populated countries. The United States, which has reported over 45m cases of COVID and 741,000 deaths, was conspicuously absent from the list. To put it briefly, as the west implements its vaccine passport schemes to enter and live in the west, it has effectively shut its door on the unvaccinated black and brown population of the world.
Despite the above mentioned human rights abuses, the Human Rights Watch has little to say. How can the "Watchman" be asleep as governments embark on a medical apartheid project which dehumanizes the unvaccinated? Could it be because the purveyors of these draconian measures are western governments? Critics of Human Rights Watch have often argued that it exhibits a western bias that focuses excessively on the human rights abuses of non-western countries. The HRW silence to the ongoing dehumanization of the unvaccinated championed by the west would appear to justify this claim. I stand to be corrected, but the HRW has done very little advocacy in the area of the coercive use of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports except when non-western states have used them. In October 2021, Human Rights Watch raised concerns regarding vaccine mandates implemented in Cambodia. According to Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, "The government needs to make sure that Covid-19 vaccines are available to everyone and that restrictive measures don't arbitrarily keep people from meeting their basic needs and getting essential services." Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, wrote in the Globe and Mail that China's use of force and coercion to drive up its COVID-19 vaccination rate is not the answer. Paradoxically, Kyle Knight, a senior researcher at HRW, argued that Vaccine Mandates Can Support Human Rights in a blog post.
It is shocking that while Human Rights Watch has something to say about human rights atrocities committed by China and Cambodia in the name of COVID-19, it looks the other way as Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, and France dehumanize the unvaccinated and destroy their economic base. Moreover, turning a blind eye to atrocities committed by western governments gives dictators ammunition to quickly dismiss the HRW as a puppet for western hegemony.
Human Rights Watch should be true to what it has written on paper. You write, "Our researchers work in the field in 100 some countries, uncovering facts that create an undeniable record of human rights abuses." If this is the case, it shouldn't be too difficult to unearth the crimes against humanity in the west. You write, "Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide. We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice." If this is the case, defend the rights of the unvaccinated and put pressure on western governments to stop its abuses. You write, "Together, we can use our influence – from advocating with world leaders to sharing the truth of what's happening on the ground – to help stop repression around the world." If this is the case, use your influence to stop the west from cutting large swathes of unvaccinated black and brown people from the global community. You write, "We try to strike a balance between working in countries where the most atrocious human rights violations occur and those where we can bring about the most change." If this is the case, then devote resources to western nations where atrocious bio-apartheid is currently taking place to bring about lasting change.
I conclude by paraphrasing Martin Luther King. Human Rights Watch must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of western governments but rather the conscience of western (and non-western) governments. It must be the guide and the critic of western governments and never its tool.
Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA