ICJ joins in highlighting COVID-19 human rights issues at Human Rights Council

The ICJ has joined other NGOs highlighting key human rights issues in the COVID-19 pandemic, at a virtual meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

In the informal conversation, exceptionally organised by video-conference, the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented a statement, as did the President of the Council and a number of States, followed by several statements by NGOs.

The ICJ joined statements delivered by CIVICUS (on civil and political rights), ISHR (on the UN system response), and FORUM-Asia (on economic, social and cultural rights), on behalf of a large number of NGOs from around the world.

The statements focussed on, among other things:

  • the obligations of States individually and collectively to mobilize the maximum available resources to respond to the pandemic and protect those at risk, including by respecting, protecting and fulfilling economic, social and cultural rights;
  • the need to guard against abuse of emergency powers and undue restrictions on fundamental rights, including non-discrimination, freedom of expression and right to access information, the right to privacy, rights of persons deprived of liberty, and taking into account the situation of particularly-at-risk groups;
  • the role of the Human Rights Council, Special Procedures and Secretary General to monitor, report on, and respond to human rights aspects of the pandemic and States’ responses, and ensuring that civil society continues to be able to participate in all relevant UN and other processes.

The full statements may be downloaded in PDF format here:

Civil and Political Rights: UN-JointStatement-COVID19CPR-2020-final

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: UN-JointStatement-COVID19ESCR-2020-final

United Nations Mechanisms: UN-JointStatement-COVID19UN-2020-final

Abbreviated versions were delivered in the dialogue, due to the limited time available.

In extensive and detailed closing remarks, the High Commissioner responded to many of the questions and observations made during the discussion, concluding, on the topic of access to justice in times of crisis, as follows (unofficial transcription):

“Courts become more important than ever to safeguard rights in times when major decisions with broad impact are being taken and implemented at great speed. In these circumstances, we have already seen the real risk for abuse of power, legal over-generalization and mistake. The courts must remain available to address these issues, if necessary of course by modifying their working methods. We have seen courts in many countries taking measures to ensure they remain accessible while protecting their staff and clients.”

A video recording of the event can be viewed here.

The High Commissioner’s specific remarks on access to justice can be accessed directly here.

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