UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.”
In a video message delivered yesterday, he said there is discrimination in the delivery of public services to tackle the pandemic and “structural inequalities that impede access to them”. He said the pandemic has seen “disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.”
Rising ethnonationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a push back against human rights are all prevailing in a number of countries. Additionally, the crisis is being used as a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic, the Director said.
He called on governments to be “transparent, responsive, and accountable” and stressed that media freedom, civil society organisations, the private sector and civic space are essential
“Human rights cannot be an afterthought in times of crisis- and we now face the biggest international crisis in generations.”
Guterres said any emergency measures — including states of emergency — must be “legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and duration and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect public health.”
“Emergency powers may be needed but broad executive powers, swiftly granted with minimal oversight, carry risks,” the report warned. “Heavy-handed security responses undermine the health response and can exacerbate existing threats to peace and security or create new ones.”