States responses to Covid 19 threat should not halt freedoms of assembly and association

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“States responses to Covid 19 threat should not halt freedoms of assembly and association” – UN expert on the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Clément Voule

GENEVA (14 April 2020) – The Covid-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to human rights around the world. “I salute the efforts of governments, international organizations and civil society working together to protect the public from this health hazard. Where human rights are the
compass, we will be better placed to overcome this pandemic and build resilience for the future” said Clément Voule, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, in a statement today.

“No country or government can solve the crisis alone; civil society organizations should be seen as strategic partners in the fight against the pandemic. I am thus concerned due to the information I have received from online consultations with civil society around the world, suggesting several worrying trends and limitations, including on civil society’s ability to support an effective response.”

Laws limiting public gatherings, as well as freedom of movement, have been passed in many States. Restrictions based on public health concerns are justified, where they are necessary and proportionate in light of the circumstances. Regrettably, civil society organizations have rarely been consulted in the process of designing or reviewing appropriate measures of response, and in several cases the processes through which such laws and regulations have been passed have been questionable. In addition, those laws and regulations have often been broad and vague, and little has been done to ensure the timely and widespread dissemination of clear information concerning these new laws, nor to ensure that the penalties imposed are proportionate, or that their implications have been fully considered. In many cases, it appears these measures are being enforced in a discriminatory manner, with opposition figures and groups, together with vulnerable communities, constituting prime targets.

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