Tackling Coronavirus

Avoid overreach of security measures: UN experts

Diplomatic Correspondent

17 March, 2020 12:00 AM printer

UN human rights experts on Monday urged countries to avoid overreach of security measures in their response to tackle outbreak of coronavirus.

They also reminded that emergency powers should not be used to quash dissent.

 “While we recognize the severity of the current health crisis and acknowledge that the use of emergency powers is allowed by international law in response to significant threats, we urgently remind States that any emergency responses to the coronavirus must be proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory,” the experts said in a statement issued in Geneva,” the UN experts said.

Declarations of states of emergency, whether for health or security reasons, have clear guidance from international law, they said.

Emergency declarations based on the Covid-19 outbreak should not be used as a basis to target particular groups, minorities, or individuals. It should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health nor should it be used to silence the work of human rights defenders.

Restrictions taken to respond to the virus must be motivated by legitimate public health goals and should not be used simply to quash dissent,” they said.

Some countries and security institutions may find the use of emergency powers attractive because it offers shortcuts, the experts said.

To prevent such excessive powers to become hardwired into legal and political systems, restrictions should be narrowly tailored and should be the least intrusive means to protect public health, they said.

Finally, in countries where the virus is waning, authorities must seek to return life to normal and must avoid excessive use of emergency powers to indefinitely regulate day-to-day life, they said.