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NHRIs show leadership in COVID-19 response

Graphic: NHRI monitor talks hospital staff, Baghdad

NHRIs in the region have advocated strongly for human rights to be respected in planning and implementing public health, social and economic measures.


As countries across the region grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to protect people from harm, APF members have continued to advocate for human rights principles to be respected in planning and implementing public health strategies.

"A number of our members have been strong advocates for the rule of law in situations where their government has declared a state of emergency," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.

"This independent scrutiny is important to ensure that governments use those powers carefully and for the good of the community, consistent with international human rights standards" he said.

"Our members have also sought to ensure that vulnerable groups – such as migrant workers, people with disabilities and people in places of detention – do not face additional risks or harm."


Close up shot of a hand holding a mask

"NHRIs are expected to promote and ensure respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law in all circumstances and without exception," the APF said in COVID-19 and NHRIs in the Asia Pacific.


In Palestine, the Independent Commission for Human Rights has published a detailed report of its work since a state of emergency was declared on 5 March, which includes a wide range of monitoring, advisory and training initiatives.

In India, the National Human Rights Commission has addressed many serious complaints of human rights violations, including the deaths of migrant workers, police brutality involving people breaking curfew restrictions, rape and violence against women, and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.

In Australia, the Human Rights Commission has provided advice on legislation related to the government's contact tracing app – COVIDSafe – and provided an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on different groups, including older people and people with disabilities.

In Qatar, the National Human Rights Committee has launched a campaign with migrant worker communities to inform them of their rights and the support available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights has advocated on behalf of people in detention, older people and pregnant women, people associated with COVID-19, Filipino Muslims and, most recently, communities forced from their homes by Typhoon Ambo.

In Nepal, monitoring teams led by the National Human Rights Commission have published a checklist on human rights monitoring during COVID-19 and advocated on behalf of vulnerable groups, including migrant workers trying to return home from India.

In Iraq, the High Commission for Human Rights has published an Assessment Report of the national response to COVID-19 (24 February-8 April), while staff have continued to monitor places of detention and distribute relief packages to low-income families.

In Malaysia, the Human Rights Commission called for an end to the widespread arrest and detention of undocumented migrants in Kuala Lumpur.

In New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission has expressed concern about the speed and lack of scrutiny associated with legislation to move the country out of lockdown.

Date: 25 May 2020


Image credits

  1. NHRI monitor talks hospital staff, Baghdad - Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights
  2. Close up shot of a hand holding a mask - Photo by MONT on Unsplash