UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

Pandemic cannot revoke Human Rights

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The COVID-19 pandemic poses a global threat to human rights around the world, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, speaking on Thursday during an informal briefing by the UN Human Rights Council on the new coronavirus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is suffering and harming every region. It poses a far-reaching threat to human rights,” she said.

According to her, at present, countries need to take vital measures to modernize health and social systems in order to provide the greatest possible support to those who are most affected by the epidemic.

“We know that closures and locks cannot last forever. It is necessary to carefully develop strategies for overcoming the epidemic in order to ensure the restoration of our societies and people,” said the head of OHCHR.

Bachelet emphasized that the pandemic is already pointing to the effects of inequality in every society.  However, the extraordinary measures that governments have to take do not give them the right to violate their human rights obligations.

“In developed countries, shortcomings in access to health care, in labor rights and social protection, in living space and in dignity suddenly became very noticeable. In developing countries, where a large part of the population relies only on daily income to survive, the impact of a pandemic can be much  more significant, “she added.

The COVID-2019 pandemic poses a significant threat to the maintenance of international peace and security because it can lead to an escalation of violence and devastating miscalculations that will further consolidate the ongoing wars and complicate efforts to combat the spread of the virus.

The scale and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic certainly reaches a level of threat to public health that can justify the restriction of certain rights and freedoms, as in the case of restrictions on freedom of movement due to quarantine or isolation.  At the same time, careful attention to such rights as the right not to be discriminated against, and principles such as transparency and respect for human dignity, can provide an effective response to the conditions of disorganization and violation of the usual way of life that are inevitable in a crisis situation and stop the negative consequences associated with  the introduction of excessively broad restrictions that do not meet the above criteria.

Until a sufficient number of people are vaccinated against coronavirus, we must limit its spread.  One way is to track the movements of infected people, as well as those with whom they meet.  But this has great consequences in terms of privacy, and we must carefully regulate it to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law.

An exceptional crisis requires exceptional measures.  But they must be limited in scope, which are determined by objectives, and consistent with fundamental rights.

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