Defending dignity in a time of crisis
Graphic: Staff from Iraq's NHRI deliver food to families in communities across Baghdad
APF members have continued to monitor and respond to the human rights issues facing vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 crisis.
Across the Asia Pacific region, APF members have been monitoring and responding to the human rights issues facing marginalised groups during the COVID-19 crisis, especially in the face of lockdowns imposed by governments.
Despite the difficult contexts in which they operate, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have been vocal in raising issues facing migrant workers, people in places of detention, families living in poverty, people with disabilities, and refugees and asylum seekers, among others.
This includes the need to uphold physical health and safety for all, equal access to health care, access to basic necessities, access to information and fair treatment by police and security forces.
"At times like these, NHRIs play an absolutely critical to ensure that all people are treated fairly and with dignity," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.
"With underlying inequalities typically exacerbated during public health emergencies, NHRIs will maintain an essential role in mitigating the impact of the crisis on vulnerable and marginalised groups," the APF said in COVID-19 and NHRIs in the Asia Pacific.
Following is a summary of some activities undertaken by APF members to uphold human rights, at a time when governments across the region have enacted states of emergency and imposed limits on freedom of movement to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In Nepal, a high-level monitoring team led by the National Human Rights Commission has highlighted the desperate humanitarian situation of vulnerable groups, including thousands of daily wage workers in the Kathmandu Valley, as well as people returning to their villages amid the lockdown.
In Iraq, the High Commission for Human Rights has continued to monitor implementation of the government's response to the pandemic, as well as distribute relief packages to low-income families in parts of Baghdad.
In New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission has released a report that explores ten areas of concern - ranging from lack of access to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) through to an increase in racist behaviour and family violence - and includes more than 30 recommendations for the government.
In Qatar, monitoring teams from the National Human Rights Committee are undertaking regular field visits to designated quarantine spots, places of detention and workers' accommodation.
In the Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights has urged government attention on the needs of vulnerable groups – including the poor, refugees, IDPs, stateless persons and indigenous people – and to ensure that restrictions on liberties are proportionate and strictly time-bound. It also published a set of social media cards on human rights concerns during the coronavirus outbreak.
Graphic: Cartoon image of four faces wearing masks
In Malaysia, the Human Rights Commission has expressed concern about arrests made during the Movement Control Order, as well as highlighted the urgent need to meet the basic needs of refugees and asylum seekers, who have no access to work or income.
In Korea, the National Human Rights Commission has opposed plans to use tracking devices on those placed under quarantine restrictions, citing privacy concerns
In India, the National Human Rights Commission has called for police and other public servants to be provided with operating guidelines to ensure that the enforcement of lockdown measures is balanced with respect for human rights
In Sri Lanka, the Human Rights Commission has requested the government to ensure that news bulletins and special announcements are accompanied by sign language interpretation, to ensure access to information for people with a hearing impairment.
In Palestine, the Independent Commission for Human Rights has collaborated with partners to prepare a Guide for Judges, Public Prosecutors and Lawyers and guidance notes on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Rights of Women during COVID-19.
Date: 25 April 2020
- Staff from Iraq's NHRI deliver food to families in communities across Baghdad - IHCHR
- NHRC monitoring team inspects a prison, Kathmandu - National Human Rights Commission of Nepal
- Cartoon image of four faces wearing masks - Unsplash