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Pandemic treaty: WHO to acquire autocratic powers over nations? Critics disagree

By Rosamma Thomas* 

While a group of lawyers, doctors and scientists from India has written to the Prime Minister and the Union health minister seeking that India refuse to accept the Global Pandemic Accord of the World Health Organization (WHO), critics of the move believe it would be wrong to dissociate with the WHO. 
The letter warns of the impending assumption of “sweeping powers” by the WHO to control a global government on health, which would expand into the food economy and environment as well.
Among the top signatories are Nilesh Ojha, advocate, Bombay High Court, Dr Amitav Banerjee, epidemiologist formerly with the Indian Armed Forces, Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and overseas citizen of India based in the UK, naturopath Dr Jacob Vadakkanchery Malipuram, Aruna Rodrigues, lead petitioner in the GMO PIL in the Supreme Court, pediatrician Jacob Puliyel and Colin Gonsalves and Prashant Bhushan, senior advocates in the Supreme Court.
However, Dr Mira Shiva, formerly with the Voluntary Health Association of India, who agrees with many provisions in the letter, refused to sign it stating that complete dissociation from WHO may leave intergovernmental interventions in the health sector weaker for lack of an international forum, especially at a time when the assault on Gaza, for instance, needs international action.
Well known both in India and abroad for her contribution in areas of social justice in health care, rational drug use, women's health and the survival of the poor in Third World countries, Dr Shiva, sister of world-renowned environmentalist Vandana Shiva, is the recipient of the prestigious Dr Olle Hansson Award.
The Global Pandemic Treaty, currently in draft form, reportedly promises fundamental changes in the functioning of the WHO, from an advisory body to one that assumes charge in times of pandemic. 
“WHO can at will, call a pandemic, declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and then take over the authority of national governments,” the letter claims, arguing that the treaty could serve as a framework convention and could continue indefinitely, year after year.
The International Health Regulations of 2005 have also been amended, and the accord and these amendments of IHR operate in parallel to grant draconian powers to the WHO, representing a threat to health freedom, constricting national, medical and bodily autonomy, believe signatories of the letter.
Justifying its argument, the letter points out that the WHO comprises unelected members, and the attempt at assumption of such powers comes in the context of the WHO’s abject failure during the Covid-19 pandemic. The fundamental rights guaranteed to Indian citizens under the Constitution are at stake, the letter warns.
The letter cites the Nuremberg Code of 1947, a 10-point statement delimiting permissible medical experimentation on human subjects, after medical professionals were put on trial after World War II; it quotes from the Geneva statement for doctors of 1948: “I will respect the autonomy and dignity of my patient. I will not use my medical knowledge to infringe human rights and civil liberties, even under force.”
The Accord and the IHR violate the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India by mandating medical procedures and coercion, says the letter. “This is a breath-taking and terrifying onslaught on fundamental civil liberties. It must be understood as fundamental, that the negation of bodily integrity of any human being means the loss of all human rights,” the letter states.
“Sir, you are sworn to the Constitution. There is little alternative but to jettison the WHO from our national life,” the letter tells the PM and the Union health minister.
Apart from warning the Government of India, the letter, which has been made public, sounds a warning to communities across the world, whose freedom, it contends, rests on vigilance and a cultivated ability to defy and disobey, so schemes of corporations acting in concert can be thwarted.
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*Freelance journalist

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