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UN: Emergency COVID Measures Should Not Violate Human Rights

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 27, 2020.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging the world’s governments to respect human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Bachelet said in a statement Monday that human rights should not be violated “under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures.”

Bachelet said emergency powers “should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic – nothing more, nothing less” and “should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power.”

The high commissioner’s office has issued new policy guidance on the emergency measures because she said, “There have been numerous reports from different regions that police and other security forces have been using excessive, and at times lethal force to make people abide by lockdowns and curfews.”

“The abiding principle,” Bachelet said, is that the emergency measures must be “enforced humanely.” She added that if the rule of law is not upheld, “the public health emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster, with negative effects that will long outlast the pandemic itself.”

“Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response,” Bachelet said.

Almost all the countries in the world are under some kind of restrictive lockdown in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly three million people around the world have been infected with the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. More than 206,000 people have died.

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