UN expert alarmed at reports of police violence amid pandemic

“Graphic accounts of police cruelty and violence, often directed at the most vulnerable individuals and communities, are multiplying.”


MANILA – A United Nations special rapporteur reminded states that “excessive use of force by the police is unlawful under international law, including during states of emergency.”

In her first #COVID19 Human Rights Dispatch posted on April 2, Agnes Callamard, Special Rappoteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings Agnes Callamard expressed concern on numerous reports she has been receiving on alleged police killings and its excessive use of force as governments around the globe implement measures to contain the pandemic.

“Graphic accounts of police cruelty and violence, often directed at the most vulnerable individuals and communities, are multiplying,” Callamard said.

“History tells us that more often than not states of emergency and curfews, whatever their purported motivation, lead to an increase in violence by the state,” Callamard said in the Human Rights Dispatch with the hashtag #NoCurfewOnHumanRights.

Callamard stated that under Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “States may derogate from their obligations under the Covenant but only ‘in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed.’ Derogations must be set in law and may be taken only “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”

Do not discriminate

UN human rights expert Agnès Callamard (Screengrabbed from United Nations)

Callamard said reports from around the globe showed that states of emergency has increased the police’s vulnerability to commit violence particularly to groups and individuals.

This includes the “poor people who are forced to go out to make a living,; homeless men, women and children; women and children in situations of domestic violence; migrants and refugees; slum dwellers and all those who live a “hand to mouth” existence for whom daily economic activity is essential for daily survival.”

She said as people try to fend for them and their families amid the threats of the pandemic, it is they who are more likely to breach regulations under a state of emergency because it pertains to freedom of movement.

“You can’t stay home if you don’t have one. You can’t be under lockdown if don’t have what you need to feed your family. How do you ‘socially distance’ in an urban slum?” she said.

She said that law enforcement are required to abide by the principle of non-discrimination. “They have the duty to respect and protect the human rights of every person, irrespective of their race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” she said.

‘Right to life is non-derogable’

Callamard stressed that even if states of emergencies are in place, right to life is non-derogable or cannot be taken away or compromised at all times.

She said that while the law enforcement authorities may have powers during a state of emergency, but the power does not include “the power” to take life arbitrarily.

“Under a state of emergency, when law enforcement agencies are resorting to force, they must continue abiding by the principles of necessity, proportionality and precaution.”

“While COVID19 is new, the applicable human rights norms are not. The principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and precaution applied to the right to life, must be implemented,” she added.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, President Duterte has ordered the authorities to shoot those who will violate the enhanced community quarantine.

Since the implementation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, there are now over 75,000 individuals who have been arrested by the authorities for violating curfew hours, as of April 3, based on the recent report of the Joint Task Force Coronavirus Shield.

A 63-year-old man was also shot dead at a checkpoint in Agusan del Norte last weekend. The man, who was reportedly drunk, allegedly complained about the good packs distributed by the government and brandished a bolo and tried to attack the police which prompted the latter to shoot the man, the report said.

Police also violently dispersed residents of an urban poor community and arrested 21 residents. They were recently released after posting bail. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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