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Why in news?

The UN rights chief warned on 27th April, that countries flouting the rule of law in the name of fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic risk sparking a “human rights disaster”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called upon countries to refrain from violating fundamental rights “under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures”.

How are Human Rights violated according to the UN Statements?

  • Emergency powers should not be a weapon that governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power.
  • They should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic — nothing more, nothing less.
  • There have been numerous reports from different regions that police and other security forces have been using excessive, and at times lethal, force to make people abide by lockdowns and curfews and such violations have often been committed against people belonging to the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population. This is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response.
  • The UN rights chief also warned that efforts to rein in dangerous misinformation around the pandemic was in some cases being used as an excuse to crack down on legitimate free speech.
  • Undermining rights such as freedom of expression may do incalculable damage to the effort to contain COVID-19 and its pernicious socioeconomic side-effects.

Way forward suggested:

Any exceptional measures or state of emergencies introduced in the name of fighting COVID-19 should be subject to proper parliamentary, judicial and public oversight to avoid abuses.

December 2023