Advice to governments

The Human Rights Commission in New Zealand, in a statement issued on 26 March, highlighted the need to respect basic human rights and protect high-risk populations whilst addressing the pandemic. This includes older people, disabled people, those with underlying health problems, and those living in poverty.  The Commission held several fora and is engaged in discussions with government agencies to ensure that human rights are at the forefront when making decisions.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, in a press statement released on 17 March, called on all duty bearers, both in public and private sectors, to observe a human rights-based approach. The needs of the most vulnerable in society must be considered and be at the centre of all the rapid responses.

The Commission also stressed that whilst it is understood that in cases of life-threatening circumstances, certain rights may be limited, certain rights are non-derogable under national and international human rights obligations. These include the right to life, freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, freedom from slavery, fair trial, and habeas corpus. KNCHR thus advises that where the government is faced with two or more options that the less restrictive alternative be preferred to contain the situation.  Any restrictions should meet the standards of necessity and proportionality.

The Defensoría del Pueblo from Peru engaged directly with local and regional authorities, and recommended that effective action be taken to minimize public exposure in public areas, bars and entertainment venues. Further recommendations later in the month included calls to the government to halt bills for water, sanitation and other public services until the crisis is over and to issue the bills without interest rate and with payment plan facilities to provide relief to the poorest sectors of the population.

The Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria has been addressing the impact of the pandemic on economic and social rights by advising business and the Government.