UN experts condemn police violence, abuses amid COVID-19

Both UN experts called on everyone to denounce governments’ failure to respond to the needs of the people in the time of the pandemic.


MANILA – United Nations experts have encouraged Filipino human rights defenders and the public to continue to raise their voices especially in this time of pandemic when government policies have violated basic human rights.

In a webinar by the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) last May 29 entitled #NoLockdownOnRights, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard said that the last three months have “demonstrated that people are vulnerable to police violence in the time COVID-19.” She noted that the most vulnerable to violence mostly are the poor, those without homes and those who live on hand-to-mouth existence.

Callamard added that as the world combats coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), most of the government responses have left out the marginalized.

She added, “You cannot stay home if you do not have home. You cannot be under lockdown if you do not have what you need to feed your family and you cannot physically distanced if you live in an urban slums.”

In the same webinar, former Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst said that the UN Special Rapporteurs continue to receive testimonies from people who are severely affected by the governments’ response to the pandemic, not only on their civil and political rights but also their access to food, housing, sanitation, among others.

Both UN experts called on everyone to denounce governments’ failure to respond to the needs of the people in the time of the pandemic.

Forst said many countries have adopted new laws and regulations but most governments have not consulted human rights defenders in designing these policies. As a result, they have been receiving and seeing attacks of state forces not only against human rights defenders but also agains doctors

Read: UN expert alarmed at reports of police violence amid pandemic 

Callamard said the measures of the government “are often very broad and specific that they attribute large powers to the police without sufficient scrutiny and mitigation.” “And when people find their situation of reaching the regulations such as those related to curfew and quarantine, the response of the police is neither necessary or proportionate to the crime being committed,” Callamard said.

Callamard said that the situation around the world shows that COVID-19 measures are resulting in “increased systemic violence.” She said that law enforcement institutions often use the excuse of these measures to engage in excessive use of force.

She reminded the governments: “The right to life is non-derogable even in a state of emergency.”

“It is unconscionable that people should die because they are looking for food, for work and for fleeing violence at home,” she said adding that this is the reality of COVID-19 around the world.

Bringing the message in the international community

Forst said that testimonies are needed for the Special Rapporteurs to better help those who are in need. That is why he encouraged the continuous sending of testimonies to the UN to better help and inform the international community.

Callamard also encouraged the use of all platforms available to inform the international community. “Your testimonies are essential to shake up the international consciousness on the impact of COVID-19,” she said.

She pointed out that people’s voice is also part of the response to the pandemic.

“We must bring the other message that, yes we should not die because the COVID-19 but we also should not die of the measures taken in response to the pandemic,” she said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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