COVID-19: Monitoring rule of law and civil liberties

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Ensuring the rule of law in the context of the COVID 19-pandemic crisis

« It has long been observed that one of the main instruments employed by governments to repress and deny the fundamental rights and freedoms of peoples has been the illegal and unwarranted Declaration of Martial Law or a State of emergency ». It is with these words that the American Association of the International Commission of jurists introduces the Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the same spirit, ASF and its partners on the ground have launched a monitoring initiative since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Uganda, Tunisia. This effort will result in the publication of multiple articles in the coming weeks and months.

While acknowledging the legitimate duty of governments to provide a response to a health crisis, it was deemed equally important to endorse a watchdog’s role and ensure that the response to the pandemic would not infringe on the rule of law principles. The risk of potential instrumentalisation to restrain fundamental rights beyond reason exists in both fragile contexts (such as post-conflict or authoritarian environments) and more established democracies (some of which are under increasing populist pressure).

The monitoring has identified four main areas in which the rule of law and public freedoms could come under threat, whether due to the public health measures themselves or their implementation:

  • Mobility restrictions;
  • Civic space;
  • Functioning of justice systems;
  • Surveillance.




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