UN Special procedures discuss human rights and Covid-19

May 2, 2020

On 30 April 2020 the UN Human Rights Council held a virtual informal conversation on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 crisis with representatives of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures mandate holders.

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with the mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The Coordination Committee, composed of six Special Procedures mandate holders, aims to enhance coordination among mandate holders and to act as a bridge between them, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the broader United Nations human rights framework and civil society.

….Anita Ramasastry, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, noted that the Coordination Committee had helped create a dedicated COVID-19 web page, which it hoped would become over time a living repository of guidance and advice to States on good practice. The Special Procedures mandate holders had risen to the challenge and through their powerful statements, actions and innovations promoted a human rights-based approach to addressing this crisis, said Ms. Ramasastry. They attempted to help States to ensure that policies and decisions taken during the crisis were consistent with human rights.

Dainius Pûras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health said advances in biomedical sciences were very important to realize the right to health during this pandemic, but equally important were human rights. The way to the effective management of the pandemic was the application of the principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability to all policies. He also stressed the importance of access to reliable and accurate information and the protection of the right to privacy, including in the use of technologies to track the spread of the virus.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the guidance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that States’ responses complied with human rights obligations. They asked what steps had been taken to ensure the lifting of unilateral and illegal coercive measures, which violated human rights. Any measures to counter the pandemic should be necessary and proportionate, pursue legitimate purposes, and comply with international norms. Respect for human rights was vital, not only for the emergency response phase, but also during the post-crisis recovery. Speakers noted that emergency powers had been used to enact repressive measures that may have the effect of silencing dissent. They stressed the importance of upholding economic, social and cultural rights, including issues related to access to housing and food. It was hard to find a more striking example of the interconnectedness of rights than this crisis.

In conclusion, Mr. Pûras said lessons still had to be drawn from this pandemic. However, lots of lessons learned from previous public health crises could be applied today to address the current crisis. The AIDS epidemic, for instance, had shown that a human rights-based approach was most effective. It should also be noted that the current crisis had revealed the weakness of healthcare systems, including in some developed countries, which would have to be addressed.

The webcast of this informal virtual conversation is available on demand on UN Web TV, while summaries of the discussion in English and French can be found on the United Nations Office at Geneva News and Media page.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-rights-council-discusses-human-rights-implications-covid-19-crisis-its-special

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