On Tuesday 5 May 2020, the Council of the European Union (the ‘Council’) issued a ‘Declaration on human rights in the times of the coronavirus pandemic’.
In this, the Council reaffirms its position that respect for all human rights must remain at the heart of fighting the pandemic and supporting the global recovery. The Council stresses that the impact of the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic is of a disproportionate nature concerning the rights of women, children, and elderly persons and, on all persons in vulnerable situations in general. Leading on from this, it highlights the need for targeted response measures which should be inclusive and gender-responsive.
Furthermore, the declaration warns against the pandemic becoming a pretext to limit democratic and civil space, the respect of the rule of law, and, of international commitments in the framework of human rights. In this context the Council mentions that it is important to ensure that digital technologies having the potential to help contain the pandemic should be used in full respect of human rights, including the right to privacy.
The Council also acknowledges the high importance of the role of civil society and human rights defenders, particularly in these times, to encourage support for those who are most in need, to defend human rights and to promote accountability. Moreover, it reaffirms that the position of the European Union is that it will promote coordination in all relevant multilateral fora, including working with the UN, WHO and OSCE. Finally the statement declares that, at this time of global crisis, the EU undertakes to ensure that its response will uphold the dignity and the human rights of all without discrimination of any kind.
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