Morality and Law
Human Rights and the Anti-Pandemic Big Brother
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On July 13, the Valdai Club held a discussion “Virus Mutation and World Experience in Revaccination: Human Rights and Society”, dedicated to the problem of balancing human rights and social rights in the context of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in combination with mass vaccination, in many cases mandatory or quasi-mandatory. The discussion was moderated by Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Dmitry Dedov, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights from the Russian Federation, commented on the latest decisions of the ECHR on issues related to coronavirus and vaccination. He stressed that the court avoids far-reaching conclusions and evades a full analysis of restrictions on rights and freedoms associated with quarantine measures and vaccination. Laurence Lwoff, Head of the Bioethics Unit, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, spoke about the activities of the Council of Europe in the field of protecting biomedical rights amid the crisis caused by the pandemic. “Vaccination illustrates well the fundamental link between human rights, responsibilities, responsibility and solidarity,” she said. Tatiana Reihtman, Advisor to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, provided detailed information on the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation to protect the rights of citizens in the face of the threat of COVID-19. In particular, she focused on the immunization rights of citizens and on the regulatory framework of mandatory immunization.

Ilya Zyabkin, Director of the Federal Research Centre for Children and Adolescents, FMBA of Russian Federation raised the issue of the rights of the medical community in the context of the pandemic. He noted that this issue is not sufficiently regulated both in the country and in the world and requires the attention of legislators. “My colleagues are working on such a razor’s edge that they sometimes forget about their rights, leaving the ‘red zone’,” he stated. Sergey Karelov, Founder of Witology, Chairman of The League of Independent IT Experts, presented a pessimistic scenario for development of the human rights situation in connection with the pandemic. “The anti-pandemic Big Brother will play a leading role in limiting the pandemic, which in practice will combine online biomonitoring and personal tracking tools,” he warns. This can create a “bio-algorithmic Big Brother” to limit not only the risks of a pandemic, but other risks as well. The consequences both for human rights and for the rights of society will be extremely severe in this case. It is urgent to start developing principles, regulations, policies for observing human rights and the rights of society in such conditions, the expert believes.

Alexey Deykin, Senior Scientist, Centre for Precision Genome Editing and Genetic Technologies for Biomedicine at the Institute of Gene Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, emphasized that the coronavirus only exacerbated the problems that would have existed without it. In his opinion, this is not the first time in the history of mankind when a global social catastrophe is superimposed on the transition to a new technological – and informational – order. This creates fear and panic. Against this background, it is necessary to remember the importance of human rights, adhere to an evidence-based approach and not make fundamental decisions influenced by emotions. In conclusion, Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent at Canterbury, outlined the situation in Britain, which is among the world leaders in vaccination rates. According to him, realizing that COVID-19 will not go anywhere, the state, following the results of the vaccination campaign, decided to remove restrictions and in the future treat it like the flu. However, it is still difficult to say whether such an experiment is justified and where it will lead.