UN Secretary General Decries Repressive Enforcement of COVID-19 Guidelines

The United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that COVID-19 pandemic has provided a pretext for repressive security responses that curtail civic space and media freedom.
Military police patrolling

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The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that COVID-19 pandemic has provided a pretext for repressive security responses that have curtailed civic space and media freedom.

Guterres in his message to commemorate the Human Rights Day that is observed every 10th December, called for human rights to be at the front and the center of the COVID-19 response and recovery worldwide.  

His remarks come at the backdrop of violations of rights by states while enforcing COVID-19 preventive guidelines. 

In Uganda, more than 50 people were killed last month during protests following the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, the National Unity Platform's Presidential candidate for flouting the COVID-19 guidelines.

Security personnel have also dispersed campaign meetings especially organized by opposition politicians. 

According to Guterres, the pandemic has reinforced two fundamental truths about human rights, including the observation that violations harm us all.

   “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including frontline workers, people with disabilities, older people, women and girls, and minorities. It has thrived because poverty, inequality, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures, has created enormous fragility in our societies”, he said.   

He, however, says that at the same time, the pandemic is undermining human rights, by providing a pretext for heavy-handed security responses and repressive measures that curtail civic space and media freedom. He says divisive approaches, authoritarianism and nationalism make no sense against a global threat.   

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Guterres says in his remarks that human rights are universal and protect everyone, underscoring how effective pandemic response must be based on solidarity and cooperation.

 He says that people and their rights must be at the centre of response and recovery, and to beat the pandemic.

“We need universal, rights-based frameworks like health coverage for all, to beat this pandemic and protect us for the future”, he said.

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