The world is going through extraordinary circumstances. The need to adopt urgent measures such as social isolation have changed our daily lives and put public health and security in tension. However, the policies implemented cannot forget the rights of citizens.
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The situation of public knowledge of the progress of COVID-19 has necessitated the adoption of urgent measures whose objective is the protection of public health. The isolation and social distancing measures are supported by the scientific evidence that is beginning to be collected about the outbreaks of contagion of the pandemic. The World Health Organization recommends these measures and its representatives have recognized the Argentine government for its decisions that can limit the spread of this disease early on. As in other public health issues in which we have worked for years, Fundeps emphatically supports public policies based on scientific evidence and in line with the recommendations of specialized bodies in the field.
In this context of health emergency, it is essential to become aware of the importance of respecting quarantine in order to protect public health and guarantee the functioning of the Argentine health system. Failure to comply with the isolation measures, and the consequent risk for the population that this causes, allows the State to take sanctioning measures against those who violate it. However, it is also important to point out that, in the face of the initiation of a sanctioning process against a person who violates isolation, it is necessary that the acting security forces strictly comply with the legal procedure established for such a case, and respect all rights and the constitutional guarantees that, even in this state of emergency, remain in full force.
Those exceptions in which a person is allowed to circulate, undoubtedly should not be used by citizens as a pretext to violate preventive and compulsory social isolation. However, in the event of a permitted movement (For example: food supply), whoever is questioned by the security forces, must have the possibility of providing information to said personnel in order to make known the reasons for their movement. , that is to say, to exercise your release. A coercive measure by the police, should only find support in the existence of “enough reasons” (objective circumstances noted by the police officer at the time of the control) that allow us to assume that the person is actually violating the quarantine and that is not enabled to circulate (eg health professionals), but allowing before, worth the redundancy, to discharge it.
On the contrary, an arrest that does not take into account the reasons given by the person who circulates or even offers the possibility of giving them, will not only violate those constitutional guarantees that restrict the adoption of this type of measures (existence of enough reasons to proceed with the arrest and right of defense), but it will also make the exceptions contemplated by the DNU illusory Thus, any person who circulates on public roads should be detained and only after going through the entire procedure, could provide the reasons for their circulation to the competent judicial official. If so, this could cause an overflow in the places destined to house detainees, with the consequent overload of the minimum judicial system that is currently dealing with such cases.
Beyond the aforementioned, in cases in which security forces personnel detect a violation of quarantine and detain the person in question, the procedure must respect the dignity of the person without incurring degrading treatment, and using the force only when necessary. Furthermore, the procedural rules in force in each jurisdiction must be complied with, that is, immediately notify the competent judicial body, seeking the effective right of legal assistance and defense.
Finally, the application of inspection tasks should not be oriented and systematically directed to the “control” of those sectors in vulnerable situations. The guarantee of non-discrimination should not be ignored when supervising quarantine compliance, directing controls only to a certain population sector, but its scope should be general.
The existence of a state of sanitary emergency requires the responsibility of all citizens in complying with the quarantine measure. Failure to comply with such a measure undoubtedly demands a sanction to guarantee the health of the entire Argentine population, but must not lead to excesses, arbitrariness and abuse of authority by the security forces, seeking a quarantine with full validity of our rights.
From society, we must avoid acting by underestimating the number of cases existing today, which may seem few or with numbers that are not alarming enough: the behavior of the pandemic has already shown exponential growth in other countries. This is why it is necessary to think about the possible contagions of tomorrow, and especially the impacts on the health of those people belonging to the risk group and / or in a vulnerable situation.
Since the appearance of COVID-19, the need to review from the State and from all of society, the way of linking ourselves, both individually and daily and globally, has become evident. It is necessary that we collectively manage to take advantage of these circumstances to build ties, ways of relating that include citizenship, mutual respect and towards our environment, as starting points. Public health will be better protected with an active citizenry, responsible for the fulfillment of its obligations and capable of exercising its rights.
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Firm: Fundeps´s team