Success Story: MUSAWA Succeeds in Obliging Three Governorates to Protecting the Privacy of Deceased Persons with the Coronavirus
Article (60) of the Public Health Law No. (20) of 2004 states that: “Every patient in a health institution has the right to: 1., 2.,3. and 4. respect for his privacy and dignity, his religious and cultural beliefs. 5.". Article (32) of the Basic Law states: “Every assault on any of the personal freedoms or the sanctity of the private life of the human being and other public rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law or the law is a crime in which neither the criminal nor civil lawsuit arising therefrom shall be extinguished by prescription, and the National Authority shall guarantee compensation to those who have been harmed." Article (10) of Law No. 31 of 2018 regarding medical and health protection and safety states that: “Anyone who practices a medical or paramedical or health profession is prohibited from the following: 1., 2., 3., 4., and 5. Disclosing the secrets of the recipient of the service that he becomes aware of while practicing the profession or because of it, except to the competent authorities and in the cases specified by law. 6., ".
The beginning of the problem
MUSAWA noticed that some governorates (Qalqilya, Jenin, Salfit) publish the biographies of the deceased due to Corona during the announcement of the deaths. This matter constitutes a grave violation of the laws in force and has serious repercussions on public opinion and civil peace, especially on the families of the deceased in terms of exposing them to stigma, bullying and harassment, which reinforces the constitutionally prohibited concept of discrimination and leads to the reluctance of many to conduct the Coronavirus test.
Based on the MUSAWA Center’s keenness to preserve and protect human rights and the rule of law, the Center followed up on this issue and intervened by sending a legal memo to the Palestinian Minister of Health, stating that the governorates publishing the medical history of the deceased is a clear and explicit violation of the privacy of people in general and the privacy of the patients In particular. Personal data of a medical nature for a person remains with a special confidentiality that is no less important than his human dignity, the inviolability of his home, his contacts and his bank accounts, and other components of privacy that are safeguarded under the provisions of the Basic Law, numerous national laws, international covenants and conventions to which the State of Palestine is bound and bound by its provisions, especially the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the list of international rights in its various components, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits any legal or natural party, including the governorates, from violating it and disclosing it under penalty of legal accountability.
The three governorates commit not to publish the medical data of the deceased
The MUSAWA Center verified that the press releases issued by the aforementioned governorates regarding the epidemiological situation issued after the memorandum was directed to the Ministry of Health and the competent authorities are devoid of any data related to the medical history of the deceased, and are limited to the information issued by the Ministry of Health, in compliance with the Ministry Circular No. 33 dated 6/22/2020, which prohibited all governmental and non-governmental departments, municipalities and the media outlets from announcing Coronavirus infections and required adherence to only what is published by the Ministry of Health. This is what was confirmed by the official spokesperson for the ministry, Dr. Kamal Al-Shakhra, on 7/5/2020, confirming that publishing any information related to the COVID positive cases or those in contact with them is an infringement of their privacy, and that whoever publishes those information exposes himself to legal accountability. He also stressed that the Ministry of Health does not publish the names and ID numbers of the positive cases or those in contact, in order to preserve their privacy.