COVID-19, the biggest public health emergency since the Spanish Flu of 1918 has been used by governments to assume authoritarian powers to undermine democracy and human rights. The pandemic presented to the public, a rare opportunity revealing (mis)leaders with dictatorial tendencies in their attempt to consolidate their powers under COVID-19 pretext. “COVID is a dictator’s dream opportunity,” said Theary Seng, a Cambodian – American human rights lawyer. The worst health crisis in 100 years handed back authoritarian powers to the governments on a silver-platter. While COVID-19 came as a shock, governments’ adopted dictatorship as an opportune doctrine.
The parallels between what is in George Orwell’s iconic prescient dystopian novel “1984” and what is unfolding now are concerning, if not terrifying (Dr Richard House). Dr Richard House notes further that anyone daring to challenge the unrelenting narrative about the C-virus, and inviting people to be open-minded to think for themselves, rather than robotically accepting everything they’re being told by “the experts” is threatened thus allowing an epidemic of fear-mongering to rule unchallenged.
Written in 1948, in “1984” Orwell raises awareness on the dangers of mass surveillance and social controls through which the totalitarian government would control what people think, believe, see and say. Remnants of the worst fears of a totalitarian future are unfolding under the pretext of COVID-19 threatening the very essence of democracy and the freedoms flowing from its well.
During this pandemic, some democracies and authoritarian regimes arbitrarily interfered with individual privacy; engaged pervasive and intrusive technical surveillance and monitoring. A typical example would be South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) raising serious concerns against Crime Intelligence on illegal surveillance and interception in March 2021.
Furthermore, serious restrictions were placed on free expression and speech. In other, states intimidating press, including physical attacks on and criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, and petitioners became a norm in the name of the pandemic. Censoring content on the internet and site blocking also became one of the modus to suppress any dissent or alternative opinions to the preferred government narratives.
The latest authoritarian tendencies around COVID-19 have developed around vaccination. This area has prompted sharp legal debates and (mis)governments have encountered pushbacks, not only from militant anti-vaccine activists but legal scholars. This essay analyses whether coercing individuals to vaccinate or mandating, either directly or indirectly, COVID-19 vaccine would be necessary. However, for brevity, the essay is not necessarily and strictly taking the legalistic approach of examining the limitations to fundamental freedoms and rights.
The essay defends the default premise that informed consent is the general rule for any medical and scientific intervention. Further, the essay defends the principle that voluntary consent of the human subject in a scientific and/ or medical procedure is absolutely essential. In the midst of everything, this essay is cognisant of the balance to be struck between government’s responsibility on public health and the protection of individual rights and freedoms. Whether vaccine mandates are effective based on considerable behavioural scientific data does not make the authoritarian efforts by the government constitutionally tenable.
2. Background: Lesotho’s Context
Basotho had a fair share of the said authoritarian tendencies adopted from application of the shock doctrine. While Basotho were distracted and startled by the horrifying coronavirus statistics on media platforms, former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane used the pandemic as a cover up in his irrational attempt to prorogue parliament without due process. This came after the 9th Ninth Amendment to the Constitution (Act 7 of 2020) Bill was passed by the National Assembly on the 12th March 2020.
The amendment was intended to strip off unilateral prerogative powers of the Prime Minister exercised in dissolving parliament if he lost a vote of no confidence. The constitutional amendment was due to be placed before the Senate when the Prime Minister prorogued parliament. The net effect of prorogation was the Prime Ministers’ intended unilateral assassination of all the bills before any of the Houses of Parliament undermining the very essence of representative democracy.
On the 20th of March 2020, 7 days before the Declaration of the State of Emergency due to COVID-19 which was backdated, the then Prime Minister Thabane prorogued Parliament. The Prime Minister was essentially using COVID-19 to undermine the bricks and mortar of representative democracy upon which Lesotho’s political model is based.
Lesotho’s Prime Minister Tom Thabane even deployed the army onto the streets to “restore law and order”, a day after the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court declared that he acted irrationally when suspending the parliament. Faced with a vote of no confidence, Thabane used COVID-19 as a political weapon to crack down on opposition and the lawful agreements to vote him out of power. COVID-19 was used as a pretext to desecrate the noble tenets of democracy in favour of authoritarianism.
Even before Lesotho recorded a single case of COVID-19, the then Prime Minister Thabane unilaterally declared a state of emergency on the 27th of March 2020 which was deemed to have come into effect on 18th March 2020. 7 days prior to the declaration of a state of emergency, the then Prime Minister cynically and vindictively prorogued Parliament for a period of 3 months, starting on the 20th March 2020 to end on the 19th June 2020.
Whether proroguing parliament under the pretext of COVID-19 was necessary, was settled by the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court. What is clear is that COVID-19 has allowed politicians and governments to undermine the importance of democracy, constitution, and human rights. The decision by the Prime Minister who had declared war on the constitution proroguing the ultimate house of representatives in a parliamentary democratic system even before declaring the state of emergency is proof enough that human rights and democracy were the least of his concern.
Thabane’s administration assumed emergency powers and with parliament out of the picture, he was bent on implementing resolutions without parliamentary checks and approval — effectively assuming powers to rule by decree. His cabinet then, supported by an illegal structure called National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) (David Mochochoko v The Prime Minister & Others CIV/APN/141/2020 (unreported) para 4), promulgated regulations enabling him to by-pass the constitution without any checks from parliament. It is through the State of Emergency and the Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 that the government assumed broad powers to restrict and limit many civil, political and socio-economic rights and freedoms.
The government’s lockdown regulations curtailing the ‘essential commercial activity, and the lifeline of poor citizens constituted a direct threat to the constitutional rights to life, dignity and integrity.’ The government imposed a lockdown without mitigating the socio-economic impact of the restrictions and without concern for the poor of Lesotho who would not have access to food and other essentials if they could not leave their homes to engage in opportunities to gain life by work. For people who live by hand to mouth, this constituted a serious violation of the constitutional right to life – reading into it the opportunity to gain living by work.
Individuals, entrepreneurs and small-scale enterprises suffered so much that others were driven out of business. The rolled out fiscal, monetary and macro-financial reliefs that were proposed on the 13th April 2020 were never effective and largely did not help.
While the regulations may have seemed necessary from a health point of view, their constitutionality remain questionable as they brushed aside human rights. The latest debates regarding COVID-19 are the COVID-19 vaccination mandates, either direct or indirect, sparking a backlash from some citizens in the land of individual freedom, setting up potential court battles.
The argument is that COVID-19 vaccine mandates, either direct or indirect, are authoritarian in character and amount to egregious government overreach robbing citizens their fundamental rights to make their own decisions about their health. It is worth highlighting that totalitarian dangers that threaten democracy and individual freedoms flowing therefrom form part of an ongoing discussion beyond this essay.
In October 2021, the Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro urged those eligible to vaccinate to take the vaccine before 1st November 2021 or they will not be allowed to access certain services. Pursuant to the Prime Minister’s speech, in a national address on the 31st October 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Mathibeli Mokhothu announced that “people who have not vaccinated against the COVID 19 by the 1st November 2021 will not be allowed in some of the service areas”. Those areas include restaurants that sell beer, night clubs, gyms, stadiums, political rallies, public gatherings, entertainment, creative & cultural industries and public recreation areas/ parks, nightclubs, enclosed sporting grounds with clear entrance. Without vaccination cards, access to these areas is prohibited.
3. Voluntary and Informed Consent
Emerging from a totalitarian dictatorship under Adolf Hitler, there was a legal reckoning with the past, beginning with the trial and prosecution of some Nazi elites and war criminals. In the field of medical ethics, the “Nuremberg Code” was formulated by American judges sitting in judgment of Nazi doctors accused of conducting murderous and torturous human experiments in the concentration camps (the so-called Doctors’ Trial). The chilling account of human depravity has been reported by an eyewitness court reporter for the Nuremberg war crimes trial of Nazi doctors in “Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans” by Vivian Spitz.
Emerging from these “barbarous acts which outraged the conscience of mankind” (Preamble, (UDHR) during World War II, two landmark documents were formulated: “Nuremberg Code” and “United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)”. The UDHR was adopted by the newly established United Nations on 10th December 1948 declaring 30 rights and freedoms including guarantee against arbitrary interference with individual privacy, the right to be free from torture, and the right to freedom of expression.
The Nuremberg Code was integrated by judges of the American military tribunal after submissions by prosecution’s two chief medical expert witnesses in the case of the USA vs. Karl Brandt et. al. whose verdict was delivered on the 19th August 1947. In a section titled “Permissible Medical Experiments” the judges outlined what is now termed the Nuremberg Code to correct the totalitarian and authoritarian infiltration into medical and scientific research where human beings were without consent mandated, forced, or coerced to undergo medical and/or scientific procedures or interventions.
It has to be noted that in Nazi totalitarianism, human beings were used as lab rats or guinea pigs in scientific and medical procedures and experiments in the name of scientific research and patriotism. It was from these acts of degeneracy that sadistic physicians like Josef Mengele earned their names in history books from the Auschwitz concentration camp.
74 years after the adoption of what can amply be a blueprint for principles that ensure protection of the rights and freedom of subjects in medical intervention, it is worrisome that democracies are digressing to impose cruel and burdensome authoritarian restrictions to force and coerce individuals to vaccinate.
Due to its liberalism, democracy has arguably become the dominant political system which tends to have strong safeguards for personal rights reflecting freedom to make choices that reflect individual’s own values, beliefs, and prejudices. It was this democratic orientation that led to the development of a Code to introduce fundamental freedoms and rights into Hippocratic Ethics.
In a democratic dispensation, right to privacy and physical integrity are important constitutional rights which “embrace the right to be free from intrusions and interference by the state and others.” Essentially, an individual should be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, or any ulterior form of constraint or coercion. It is the right to privacy and personal integrity which influenced the first principle of Nuremberg which at the centre embraces free and informed consent. This principle states as follows:
The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion… (my emphasis)
The principle further states that the human subject should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision (my emphasis). The tenets of this fundamental principle in medical ethics for informed consent are thus stated in the “Irish Medical Council’s Guide to Professional Conduct”: [11.1] “You must give the patients enough information, in a way that they can understand, to enable them to exercise their right to make informed decisions about their care. Consent is not valid if the patient has not been given enough information to make a decision.”
The principle on prior, free and informed consent were adopted into the “UNESCO Declaration of 2005” adopted as the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. Article 6 of the Declaration provides that:
Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice…(my underlining)
The “Oviedo Convention of 1997” adopted by the Council of Europe approved by Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine is a very persuasive aid in interpreting what free, voluntary, and informed consent in medical interventions means. An Explanatory Report to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with Regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine (ER) succinctly explains the principle on informed consent as follows
Article 5… deals with consent and affirms at the international level an already well-established rule that is that no one may in principle be forced to undergo an intervention without his or her consent. Human beings must therefore be able freely to give or refuse their consent to any intervention involving their person. This rule makes clear patients’ autonomy in their relationship with health care professionals and restrains the paternalist approaches which might ignore the wish of the patient (my emphasis). The word “intervention” is understood in its widest sense, as in Article 4 – that is to say, it covers all medical acts, in particular interventions performed for the purpose of preventive care, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation or research. (my underlining)
Essentially, informed consent extends to two levels:
- the general inherent risk of any vaccine in the market, and
- risks related to the individual characteristics of each patient.
It is on this basis that it would have been ideal for the government to have developed a vaccination policy outlining the inherent risks and advantages of vaccines in the market which the government would procure or rather, all vaccines in the market. The additional duty on the risk related to the individual is provided by the professional or physician who is to administer the vaccine.
While the second one is probably undertaken, the question is whether the government has performed pursuant to its obligations on public health. Under public health, more so in a medical and health crisis, the government has an obligation to develop policies with sufficient information to enable citizens to consent to vaccination and immunisation from an informed position. At this point, the essay finds Edward Snowden’s view that “the consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed” more befitting.
4. Freedom of Expression against the COVID-19 and Vaccines
In terms section 14(1) of the Constitution of Lesotho:
every person shall be entitled to, and (except with his own consent) shall not be hindered in his enjoyment of, freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence.
Essentially, everyone is guaranteed among others the right to receive and impart information without interference. This includes the right to criticise, to make assumptions or value judgments and the right to have opinions. Such protection is not restricted to “true or factual” statements; and applies to debates on questions of public interest hence the regulation 15(7) of Public Health (COVID-19) (Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures) Regulations, 2021 which purports to prohibits fake and false information unjustifiably and unreasonably criminalises free speech and healthy public debates. Through the abovementioned regulation, the government seeks to censor debates simply to propagate narrative(s) which best suit its interests. Besides, the government has all the resources, including money appropriated from the very poor citizens through taxation to overwhelm the public with information to suit its “preferred narrative”.
Public debates about vaccines’ safety and vaccination choice have been increasing and the government, is not the ultimate arbiter but one of the role players. It must be recognised that some members of the public have so many questions about COVID-19 vaccines and as such, potential recipients should be given an opportunity to question and to express any fears they may have towards and around vaccination and immunisation. This is particularly pertinent in the context of promoting vaccine confidence. Without citizen confidence in the vaccine, the government’s goal towards head immunity would be a climb to the climax of Mount Everest.
Apart from free and fair election, freedom of expression is the corner stone of a democratic society. However, the dawn of COVID-19 and vaccines has exposed an incessant desire by those in government to erode this essential freedom. Democratic governments censoring vaccine debates calling undesired information, “either misinformation or fake” and willing to prosecute such epitomises a step towards tyranny and authoritarianism. This amounts to censorship where the government suppresses expression in order to impose its narratives on the public.
In an address in Midrand on the 11th December 2020, the former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, apart from his religious comments about vaccines, held a commendable stance that people should be able to express themselves freely about the vaccine and the origin of Coronavirus. The former Chief Justice went on to say that people should not be beaten into silence as the Republic of South Africa is a free country.
Government imposing its preferred narrative around COVID-19 and vaccines by intimidating and threatening alternative views with prosecution violates the fundamental principle of “content neutrality”. This principle is a protective shield on the right to receive information and disseminate opinions and ideas. It restricts the government’s imposition of narratives on the public simply because the government or any listener, or even the majority in a society, are offended by the content of an alternative narrative.
Even if the government would invoke section 14(2)(a) to restrict expression in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health, it is not there for the taking. The restriction must be within reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The proportionality test has been the touchstone to determine validity on restrictions and limitations on rights and freedoms. Within this test then, expression may be silenced or punished only if there is no other way to avert the harm. There are still numerous ways the government can counter information which offends its preferred narrative.
Like Mill JS (1859) “On Liberty”, it is contended that there is no inherent justification for suppressing the beliefs and opinions of others through coercive means, even if one believes that those beliefs and opinions are untrue, as they may in fact be true, and the alternative beliefs and opinions untrue. Forcing people not to hold alternative narratives is reminiscent of the story of Galileo Galilei where he was arrayed by the Roman Catholic Church on the 22nd June 1633 under threat of torture, imprisonment and worse, burned at stake if he did not denounce his scientific findings which went against the teachings of the Church. It is contended that the contemporary liberal democracies have no space for totalitarian practices such as prosecuting and sentencing people expressing themselves against core doctrines like those who opposed the Catholic Church when it was still in control during the middle and late medieval times.
In a liberal democracy, the expression by the former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in Tembisa in December 2021 when he prayed that “if there be any vaccine that is of the devil, meant to infuse triple-six in the lives of the people, meant to corrupt their DNA, Lord God Almighty may it be destroyed by fire, in the name of Jesus” ought to be tolerated. No matter how misled, misplaced and irrational expressions based on superstitions and delusions have been in the face of strong practical scientific evidence, such has not been the basis for their criminalisation over the years.
It is generally accepted that scientific explanations have over centuries flourished by consistent questioning of their hypothesis and theories. This led to discovery of flaws and mistakes hence developing better understanding such that the narrative around scientific procedures is accepted factually and practically while by faith others just hold unto their views, convictions and opinions even when absolutely divorced from reality, logic and rationality. According to the architect of the United States of America Constitution and its 4th President, James Madison, “knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Science is one such sphere of knowledge which will eventually govern and overcome ignorance and superstitions.
5. Access to information and vaccine hesitancy
Laura Neuman, Senior Program Associate, Americas Program Access, lauds information as one of the keys to democracy. In line with the authoritarian tendencies limiting public’s access to information, Rajat Khosla, Amnesty International’s senior director for research advocacy and policy, states that
“Throughout the pandemic, governments have launched an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression, severely curtailing peoples’ rights. Communication channels have been targeted, social media has been censored, and media outlets have been closed down – having a dire impact of the public’s ability to access vital information about how to deal with COVID-19”.
Lesotho, a democratic constitutional monarch also adopted authoritarian tendencies criminalising expression and access to information. As indicated earlier in the essay, Regulation 15(7) of Public Health (COVID-19) (Risk Determination and Mitigation Measures) Regulations, 2021 purports to prohibit fake and false information. Allowing for free flow of information even where the ideas expressed are inconsistent and inaccurate enable healthy public debates. At least Lesotho is a secular state where ridiculous religious assertions can be questioned without any threat of death under the guise of blasphemy. In the midst of the pandemic, it was once reported that a journalist threatened with prosecution and imprisonment when that journalist sounded alarm on apparent misuse of public funds at Command Centre (NECC).
One of the common factors which has been fuelling vaccine hesitancy trend is lack of access to information and knowledge, information sources, trust, and religious beliefs according to Kestenbaum and Feester in “Identifying and Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy”. Amnesty International is also of a view that “restricting freedom of expression is dangerous and must not become the new normal. Governments must urgently lift such restrictions and guarantee the free flow of information to protect the public’s right to health.” Instead of intensifying its advocacy on vaccine efficiency and why vaccination is considered a widespread favoured medical intervention, the government retains a provision that criminalises free expression thus limiting access to information.
It is this essay’s considered opinion that banning and burning information on authoritarian considerations to prohibit undesired narratives is what promotes those narratives. In essence, bogus claims that 5G Tech invites coronavirus got a push when David Icke interview was removed from social media platforms. The question was, what was there to be hidden? In that context, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s claim seems warranted: ”every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth.” One very relevant example would be George Orwell’s “1984” which was banned by totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. The book has turned out to be one of the classics.
At least religious utterances, beliefs and conscientious objections contributing to decisions not to vaccinate have been taken head on with counter scientific evidence-based information. Just in passing, why has no one been threatened with prosecution for disseminating misinformation, fake information and disinformation on vaccines or COVID-19 based on religious beliefs? Is it because religion is overly revered despite its misleading character? It is such bogus and irrational opinions which have to be allowed in the public arena to be countered by access to strong scientific evidence.
This is not to suggest that social media companies must not take measures to address the viral spread of dangerous information. However, it is unfortunate for government to criminalise alternative narratives while it is not doing enough to ensure that those eligible to vaccinate have sufficient access to information to make free, and voluntary choices to vaccinate. In this sense, censorship hurts democracy and from a medical ethics point of view, places health professionals and government at risk of liability for any injuries or undisclosed side effects.
In March 2021, in an open letter to the government, the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) called on the government to reveal and publicise its National Deployment and Vaccination Plan or COVID-19 Vaccination Policy as it is constitutionally obligated and required under international and regional human rights instruments. This TRC made in acknowledgement that the government has a duty and obligation to roll out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and make them available to all Basotho, who are a key priority.
TRC emphasised that the Government of Lesotho had not revealed its National Deployment and Vaccination Plan or COVID-19 Vaccination Policy which outlines the approach to providing COVID-19 vaccines. The Policy would have set out among other things, key principles, such as that COVID-19 vaccine will be made available for free to all citizens, and outline the vaccines in the market, their side effects as well as their efficiencies. However, up to date, the government has never availed its vaccination policy.
Lack of clarity and lack of information on the part of the government has undermined and sabotaged critical efforts of the government to fight the pandemic. The government’s failure to develop a vaccination policy or plan undermined the principle on obtaining informed consent from citizens for immunisation which is both an ethical and legal requirement in any vaccination programme. In a way, the government’s failure to develop and/ or disclose the vaccination policy created a fertile ground for information which propagates narratives against vaccination hence the hesitancy. Simply put, lack of information on the part of the government has failed those who cannot take the vaccine and rely on herd immunity for protection against COVID-19.
Consent derives from the principle of autonomy and forms an important part of medical and public-health ethics, as well as the constitution and international law. The importance of consent is that it facilitates the freedom to make choices that reflect the individual’s own values, prejudices, preferences, beliefs and life experiences. Out of interest, what if an individual is willing to make an informed consent to a vaccine which the government has not procured? Will an individual be justifiably and reasonably denied access to services and forced to take the vaccines available? These vaccines being the same vaccines which the government has not disclosed any information on.
On this basis, it is trite medical treatment (including vaccination) in the absence of properly informed consent is, at law, a trespass and can attract civil and criminal liability. Lack of credible information from the government contributes to the psychological distress and anxieties the people are experiencing hence continued vaccine hesitancy. According to Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, an anti-vaccine group, “bullying and punishing people for exercising the human right to voluntary, informed consent to vaccine risk taking is an abuse of public trust.”
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
According to a report issued on the 7th April 2021 by Amnesty International, “a global health crisis that could have brought humanity together in a spirit of solidarity was instead exploited by dictators and autocrats across the world to crack down on peaceful opponents, roll back democratic gains and step up surveillance efforts.” Government’s decision to impose cruel and burdensome authoritarian restrictions to force and coerce individuals to vaccinate are ethically and legally untenable. Government using force and intimidation to coerce people to comply with its demands is at best authoritarian.
It is concluded that the government in pursuance of its obligations in pursuance of public health in section 27 of the Constitution and provisions of Public Health Order 1970 cannot mandate COVID-19 vaccines. There is a presumption that all these authoritarian measures undertaken by the government are in essence in pursuance of the positive duty of government to protect citizen lives from life threatening illnesses.
While, that is not disputed, however, in terms of the law, the government is pursuing its obligations and duties under principles of state policy under public health under section 27(1)(c) and in terms of the Public Health Order, 1970. In that regard, any policy or regulation conceived in order to provide for the prevention, treatment and control of a pandemic cannot in any way be used as a justification to subject human beings to cruel and degrading treatment. Unless the authoritarian and totalitarian tendencies reversed by the adoption of democratic constitutions with strong safeguards limiting the powers of government coupled with principles enunciated in the Nuremberg Code are resurrected, the government cannot mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.
It would have been apt to prescribe the development of a vaccination policy in line with principles of the constitution and international human rights principles but it is clear that it is long overdue. First, the government is advised not to place any restrictions aimed at coercing individuals to vaccinate. In a nutshell, the government is indirectly mandating the vaccine and making it compulsory which does not auger well with medical ethics and legal requirements.
Further, intensive strategies are recommended for disclosure of accurate, adequate and relevant information in a manner that is comprehensible to the person to receive it including the nature, purpose, benefits and risks of vaccination. As part of the approach to building confidence, public health professionals should address “information with narratives tantamount to misinformation” about the vaccine. With enough credible scientific information in the public arena about the effectiveness and risks of vaccines, the government’s goal towards head immunity would be realised without any resort to authoritarian tendencies.
In conclusion, everyone has the right not to be subjected to medical procedures without free, voluntary and informed consent flowing from one’s personal right to autonomy. Right to bodily autonomy informs the more specific right to bodily integrity. Given the historical development of the principles in the Nuremberg Code, these rights emanate from the absolute freedom from torture, cruel and inhuman degrading treatment or punishment. However, this argument will be apt in the extremes where the government loses all ethical and moral considerations disregarding the constitution.
It is a cardinal axiom of human rights and constitutional law that the prohibition against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is absolute in the sense that no exception can be accepted, defended, justified, or tolerated in any circumstance whatever (Steven Greer, 2015). On this basis, the government cannot mandate COVID-19 vaccines in the extremes (Nazi style). As a reminder, during World War II, German physicians subjected thousands of prisoners to forced medical procedures which were often deadly without their consent and this is a history which carries valuable lessons for democracies with constitutions like that of Lesotho.
In the mean-time, the authoritarian governments will place harsh restrictions to force individuals to vaccinate against their consent even when the government has not availed any information on the vaccines for citizens to be informed before consent. Despite continued utter hypocritical and cynical utterances by the governments that taking the vaccine is not mandatory, the government continues to indirectly mandate vaccination through harsh restrictions. It is goes without saying democracies have imposed cruel restrictions on people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to coerce them to take the vaccine. Eventually, when these “democratic” governments’ manifest their authoritarian grip to power, they will promulgate mandatory vaccination regulations in 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of Selibeng.com.