The UN human rights chief has warned 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 Michelle Bachelet called on countries to refrain from violating fundamental rights “under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures”.

“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” she warned in a statement on 27 April 2020.

In South Africa, the UN has received reports of police using rubber bullets, tear gas, water bombs and whips, to enforce social distancing, especially in poor neighbourhoods. Thirty-nine complaints about charges including murder, rape, use of firearms and corruption are being investigated.

In Nigeria, the UN has received reports that security forces killed 18 people in relation to COVID-19 enforcement measures. Nigerian authorities have attributed some deaths to prison violence.

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One comment

  1. Australia’s current legal ban on its citizens to leave the country is a clear breach of the fundamental right of freedom of movement and should be wound back as soon as possible. Australia is one of very few countries in the world to do this. For dual citizens this ban is separating families for the forseeable future causing unnecessary distress in these uncertain times.

    Janice Conley

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