At UN, ICJ highlights human rights approach to COVID-19

At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the ICJ has urged States to ensure human rights and avoid discriminatory impacts, and for businesses to respect their human rights responsibilities, in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The oral statement, delivered in a general debate on the update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, read as follows:

“In our latest report, Living Like People Who Die Slowly: The Need for Right to Health Compliant COVID-19 Responses,[1] the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) calls on States to ensure that their individual and collective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic comply with international human rights law, including the right to health.

Any abuse of pandemic measures to repress human rights defenders, dissenting voices, or civil society more generally, is unacceptable. Respect for freedom of expression, including the right to information, is essential to effectively addressing the pandemic.

The particularly acute impact of COVID-19 on already-marginalized people heightens the importance of equal access to health facilities, goods and services. The report documents disproportionate impacts on non-citizens, older persons, women and girls, LGBT persons, persons deprived of their liberty, persons with disabilities, sex workers and healthcare workers.

Businesses, and particularly private actors in the healthcare sector must meet their responsibility to respect human rights. This will be crucial in the development, production and distribution of any COVID-19 vaccine.

Madame President, the ICJ emphasizes the continuing importance and applicability of the 1984 Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,[2] and the recognition in the WHO International Health Regulations that implementing measures must be fully consistent with human rights.”

[1] (1 September 2020).

[2] and UN Doc E/CN.4/1985/4, Annex.


The full range of materials produced by the ICJ concerning the COVID-19 pandemic can be accessed at:

AdvocacyNon-legal submissions