State measures to contain coronavirus pandemic should not serve to silence human rights defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

On March 16, a United Nations News Update highlighted, “A group of human rights experts urged states on Monday to avoid excessive security measures in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and reminded them that the powers of an emergency situation cannot be used to quell dissent.”

This group of UN Special Rapporteurs and experts from the Human Rights Council stated, “While we recognize the severity of the current health crisis and recognize that international law allows the use of emergency powers in response to significant threats, we urgently remind States that any emergency response to the coronavirus must be proportionate, necessary, and not discriminatory.”

The UN Update highlights that restrictions to respond to the virus should not “serve to silence the work of human rights defenders.”

The Center for Justice and International Law has also noted, “In several countries, measures have been adopted to restrict rights.”

The CEJIL statement adds, “Latin America has a long history of dealing with states of emergency or exception. It is critical to understand that these measures are governed by a series of criteria regarding their proportionality, necessity, temporality, periodic evaluation and guarantee of rights.”

Furthermore, Reuters now reports that “Honduras was in a state of near lockdown on Monday [November 16]”, while this social media post notes “Honduran govt arrests Aleyda Huete, social movement leader in southern Honduras, during coronavirus lockdown & suspension of constitutional rights”, while another social media post suggests that Guatemala has just prohibited public gatherings of any size.

Peace Brigades International provided, “Physical accompaniment, observation and office rounds alongside 705 women and 629 male human rights defenders in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya and Mexico on 1334 occasions in 2018.”

An integral part of our protection strategy is a highly visible physical presence alongside threatened defenders as they carry out their work. PBI entities will be innovating at this time to ensure the continued safety of at-risk human rights defenders.

Categories: News Updates


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