Nations – Taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to erode human rights
would be unacceptable, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday,
unveiling a new report on the issue.
As governments around the world
implemented extraordinary measures to deal with the outbreak, activists have
increasingly warned of strongmen regimes using the crisis to roll back rights.
Rights groups have called states
out for everything from violence, threats to press freedom, arrests and
smartphone surveillance implemented to fight the wave of infections.
“Against the background of
rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a pushback against
human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt
repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic,” Guterres said
in a statement.
“This is unacceptable.”
He called on governments to be
transparent, responsive and accountable.
“Civic space and press
freedom are critical. Civil society organisations and the private sector have
essential roles to play. And in all we do, let’s never forget: The threat is
the virus, not people,” Guterres said.
The UN report on human rights and
Covid-19 suggested that governments think about the consequences of their
actions, saying “for better or for worse it is critical to consider the
long-term whilst planning our short-term responses”.