COVID-19 and Special Procedures


Introduction

Special procedures have taken various initiatives in relation to COVID-19 with the objective to stress the importance of adopting a human rights approach in addressing the crisis. The principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability in particular need to be applied. Particular attention should be paid to people in vulnerable situations. Universal human rights principles must prevail over the spread of fake news, prejudice, discrimination, inequalities and violence.

A general call stressing that “everyone has right to life saving interventions” was initiated by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and issued by more than 60 mandate holders. They stressed that the COVID-19 crisis cannot be solved with public health and emergency measures only; all other human rights must be addressed too.

Mandate holders have continued to identify trends, emerging issues and formulate advice in connection with the emergency. As of 10 November 2020, they issued 117 press releases, 13 guidance and other tools and 17 official and one unofficial reports to HRC/GA have been presented. A one page infographic on SP actions is available at this link.

Special Procedures have examined allegations of human rights violations or concerns through the communication procedure, and have so far issued 164 (as of 30 September 2020) letters related to concerns directly connected to COVID-19 or the measures adopted in the context of the pandemic.

On 30 April 2020, Special Procedures held a virtual informal conversation with the Human Rights Council, whose aim was to present and discuss the work done by mandate holders in relation to COVID-19. Ms. Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Human Rights Council, called Special Procedures “the eyes and ears of the Council” and emphasised both the creativity and innovation of the tools and means developed by them to assist States and other stakeholders in their response to the crisis. Ms. Anita Ramasastry (read her statement) and Mr. Dainius Pūras (read his statement), representing the Coordination Committee, highlighted the broad variety of actions undertaken by mandate holders and presented three documents reflecting the contribution made so far by Special Procedures: a working report collecting all Special Procedures’ key messages and public actions in relation to COVID-19, an informational note and a flyer showing at a glance the range of outputs and tools issued by mandate holders. Member States and civil society representatives commended the timely and substantive response of mandate holders to the challenges created by COVID-19, demonstrating that Special Procedures are the crown jewel of the Council.

Special procedures mandate holders have issued various recommendations to States and other stakeholders through various public actions, such as guidance tools, dispatches, trackers, videos or press releases, and they stand ready to assist. Mandate holders are also addressing these issues through their communication procedure and their reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. These recommendations cover a broad range of human rights issues, such as the right to health, the right to housing, poverty, freedom of expression, racism and discrimination, the right to water, the situation of older persons, domestic violence, the consequences of the state of exception, emergence measures or specific groups, communities and populations. A compilation of these actions is listed below:

  • On 18 September 2020, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances issued Key Guidelines on COVID-19 and Enforced Disappearances. English | Français | Español
  • “On 18 June 2020, Independent Expert Madrigal-Borloz, issued the “ASPIRE” Guidelines on COVID-19 English | Français | Español response and recovery free from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and sent them to all Permanent Missions in English | Français | Español in Geneva and New York.
  • On 8 June 2020, Ms. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children updated a position paper on the impact and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on trafficked and exploited persons.
  • Ms. Alice Cruz, the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, have issued an open letter on COVID-19 and leprosy to the UN Member States that contains five key principles that should guide responses to the consequences of the crisis in the medium and long term in line with “Advice on leprosy and COVID19”, prepared jointly with the WHO, ILEP and Global partner for zero leprosy.
    Download the advice on leprosy and COVID19 (English | Français)
  • On 1 May 2020, the Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures issued her first COVID-19 Human Rights Guidance Note, calling inter alia to lift or at least suspend any sanctions impeding trade in or delivery of essential humanitarian goods and commodities, such as medicine, antiviral, medical equipment, its component parts and relevant software, food; as well as review and minimize the whole scope of unilateral sanctions in order to enable sanctioned states to ensure the effective protection of their population during COVID-19, to repair their economy and to guarantee the well-being of their people in the aftermath of the pandemic.
  • On 29 April 2020, Mr. Fabián Salvioli, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, published detailed guidelines to governments on measures to adopt while dealing with overcrowding in prisons.
  • on 22 April 2020 the Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers issued seven key principles to ensure that judges, justice workers, prosecutors and lawyers maintain functioning legal systems during COVID-19.
  • on 15 April 2020 the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provided States with two documents prepared jointly with the World Health Organization, other United Nations entities and organizations of persons with disabilities, containing practical guidance to address the rights of persons with disabilities in the context of COVID-19;
    Letter sent by the SR Disability to all Permanent Missions in Geneva about COVID-19 and disability,
    Download the doc: Disability inclusive social protection response to COVID-19 crisis,
    Download the doc: Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak
  • on 15 April 2020, the Independent Expert on debt and human rights issued a letter detailing a number of measures “covering a wide range of economic, financial, monetary, fiscal, tax, trade and social policies” recommended in the context of COVID-19;
  • on 14 April 2020 the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association issued 10 key principles for human rights compliant responses to COVID-19; and
  • on 6 April 2020 the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent issued advice in the form of five key areas of concern;
  • on 28 March, 8 April and 22 April 2020 the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing issued guidance notes dealing respectively with the issues of protection residents of informal settlements, protecting renters and mortgage payers, prohibition of evictions during the pandemic and Protecting housing from financialization and building back a better future;
  • On 27 March 2020 the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity issued an open letter on main trends of disparate impact of COVID-19 on LGBT communities around the world, seeking input on COVID-19-specific impact;
  • Since the start of the pandemic, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has developed tool box and flash cards providing indicators to assess freedom of assembly and association during public health emergencies, video on how to ensure protection of this human right and 10 principles for action. See link

  • on 2 April 2020 the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings issued her first Human Rights Dispatch, on police use of force and lethal force in states of emergency.
  • on 30 March 2020 the Special Rapporteur for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism published an online-based tracker that monitors COVID-19 State responses affecting civic freedoms and human rights and specifically monitors emergency powers emerging across the globe. The tracker was developed by the mandate in partnership with ICNL, ECNL and other global partners;
  • On 27 March 2020 the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity issued an open letter on main trends of disparate impact of COVID-19 on LGBT communities around the world, seeking input on COVID-19-specific impact;

The first COVID-19-related press release was issued on 16 March 2020 and since then until 10 November 2020, SPs have issued 117 statements and press releases in total, of which 66 have been issued individually and 51 collectively.

  • A group of nine human rights experts criticised countries that are trying to monopolise any future vaccine against COVID-19, saying the only way to fight the pandemic is to make affordable vaccines available to everyone in the world. Read more...
  • Mr. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation reminded that in a world where more than two billion people are deprived of access to water and sanitation, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the vital importance of guaranteeing this most fundamental of human rights. Read more...
  • Mr. Joseph Cannataci, the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, cautioned States that intrusive, omnipresent surveillance growing during COVID-19 pandemic. Read more...
  • Ms. Siobhán Mullally the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, warned that the second wave of COVID-19 now hitting many countries has increased the risk of exploitation of women, children, migrants and other vulnerable people. Read more...
  • Ms. Yuefen Li, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, warned of a looming debt crisis for some low and middle income countries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged States and international financial institutions to respond quickly and effectively by providing debt relief and reforming the international debt architecture. Read more...
  • Ms Irene Khan the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, reminded that academic freedom essential to fight COVID-19. Read more...
  • Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing reminded States that Housing is key to COVID-19 response and recovery. Read more...
  • Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association called for accelerated efforts to protect and assist women-led organisations and social movements during COVID-19 and beyond. Read more...
  • Ms Alena Douhan the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, warned that Unilateral sanctions impede the humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and must end immediately. Read more...
  • A group of seven human rights experts urged Mexico against further budget cuts on services essential to women. "Governments must ensure that essential services, such as those on violence against women and sexual and reproductive health, remain available during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond," they said. Read more...
  • Mr. José Francisco Calí Tzay the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples warned that indigenous peoples have largely been left out of COVID-19 responses globally and the pandemic is likely to worsen inequalities and racism in wider society. Read more...
  • Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences expressed alarm at the increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged States to take immediate steps to stop violence against women. Read more...
  • On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, a group of fifteen human rights experts have highlighted the vulnerabilities of girls in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and called on Governments to unlock young girls' potential and keep the promises made to them in Beijing, 25 years ago. Read more Read more...
  • A group of ten human rights experts voiced their concern that Egypt is using exceptional "Terrorism Circuit Courts" to target human rights defenders, silence dissent, and to lock up activists during the COVID-19 pandemic, UN human rights experts* said today. Read more...
  • Ms. Claudia Mahler the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons issued a statement on the occasion of the 30th global UN Day of Older Persons. “Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic is shining a spotlight on older persons. It has a disproportionate impact on older persons and has magnified existing violations of their rights”, she observed. Read more...
  • Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing raised concern about the decision to evict up to 250,000 people living in shacks alongside railway tracks in Delhi, without any prior consultation with those affected. To avoid community spread of the COVID-19 virus, he called on the Government to install a ban on all evictions during the pandemic under its National Disaster Management Act or its Epidemics Act. Read more...
  • A group of eight human rights experts urged States that access to family planning is a human right protected by international law, and States must continue to ensure it even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more...
  • Mr. Marcos A. Orellana, the Special Rapporteur on toxic wastes reminded that States have an obligation under human rights law to prevent exposure to pollution, toxic industrial chemicals, pesticides, wastes and other hazardous substances, including biological agents such as viruses. Exposure to hazardous substances preys on the most vulnerable in society. The SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is no exception. Read more...
  • Mr. Tomoya Obokata the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery warned that COVID-19 could push millions of children, women and men into contemporary forms of slavery and other forms of exploitation unless governments act now to protect them. Read more...
  • Ms Mary Lawlor the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and nine other human rights experts urged Iran to temporarily release human rights defenders from prison to protect them from the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. Read more...
  • On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, on 30 August 2020, several Human Rights experts warned that Countries must continue to search for victims of enforced disappearances even during COVID-19 pandemic. Read more...
  • Nineteen human rights experts warned the Government of Egypt that lengthy and unnecessary pre-trial detention of scores of Egyptian human rights defenders is putting them at grave and unnecessary risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more...
  • A group of eleven human rights experts expressed alarm at a sharp rise during the COVID-19 pandemic of hatred directed at religious communities, who are often being portrayed as a threat to public safety and national identity. Read more...
  • Warning of an impending tsunami of evictions, Mr Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the Special Rapporteur on housing rights called on governments around the world to halt all evictions until the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Read more...
  • Mr. David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment and an expert from the Organization of American States (OAS) warned that ‘too many countries in the Americas have loosened environmental safeguards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when they should be improving them to protect their people's health’. Read more...
  • A group of five human rights experts again reminded that “people in countries under sanctions cannot protect themselves against COVID-19 or get life-saving treatment if they fall ill because humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are not working.” Read more...
  • A group of six human rights experts warned of increased patterns of closing of digital spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more...
  • Three human rights experts have called on Tanzania to end crackdown on civic space. “COVID-19 has further compounded pre-existing human rights concerns, notably regarding the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information” they said. Read more...
  • A group of sixteen human rights experts called on Iran to immediately release human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, reportedly ill with coronavirus symptoms, and other arbitrarily detained individuals before it is too late.
    Read more...
  • Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, while presenting his report to the 44th session of Human Rights Council, advised that Governments around the world must take action to protect and promote freedom of expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, which many States have exploited to crack down on journalism and silence criticism.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, while presenting his report to the 44th session of Human Rights Council, called on governments to help the world prepare for new emergencies like COVID-19 by protecting the right to peaceful assembly and association.
    Read more...
  • Experts of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, warned of the devastating human cost of corruption, including human rights abuses if governments fail to guard against fraud and bribery in health-care supply chains as they secure essential medicines and personal-protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing called on Brazil to end all evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, after more than 2,000 families were thrown out of their homes. Thousands more are at risk of evictions in cities and in the countryside in São Paulo state.
    Read more...
  • Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons while presenting her report to Human Rights Council on visit to Iraq, voiced concern for the humanitarian needs of the 1.4 million people who remain displaced within Iraq and the challenges faced by humanitarian organisations to have access to them. With COVID-19, their humanitarian needs have increased and humanitarian organisations have had additional trouble delivering services.
    Read more...
  • The global COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more than 250 million people to the brink of starvation and dashed hopes of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, a UN expert says in a report published today.
    Read more...
  • Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, said it was crucial to act within the framework of human rights to ensure that the measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not compromise the right to education nor increase the suffering of the most marginalized.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said that the Government and Spanish companies must immediately improve abysmal conditions for neglected migrant labourers deployed as “essential workers” to pick strawberries during the COVID-19 pandemic while the rest of Spain was under lockdown.
    Read more...
  • A group of 49 (forty nine) human rights experts while calling for decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China, expressed concerns that journalists, medical workers and those exercising their right to free speech online in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic have allegedly faced retaliation from the authorities, including many being charged with ‘spreading misinformation’ or ‘disrupting public order’.
    Read more...
  • A group of 31 (thirty one) human rights experts has renewed call to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines. The experts while commenting on the country situation, also said that “COVID-19 has further accelerated the downward spiral of the human rights situation in the Philippines. Police and the military have used violence and lethal force to enforce a quarantine imposed without due consideration for the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.”
    Read more...
  • "COVID-19 forces us to rethink now more than ever mental health care and to integrate human rights to move away from the paradigm of forcibly confining persons with disabilities in psychiatric institutions," said Mr. Dainius Pūras, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.
    Read more...
  • The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls while expressing concern over proposals to substitute Guatemala's highest-ranking institution on women's rights said that COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the discrimination and inequality women and girls already face.
    Read more...
  • The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Ms. Claudia Mahler, commented, "While older persons have become more visible in the COVID-19 outbreak, their voices, opinions and concerns remain unheard.”
    Read more...
  • Mr. Dainius Pūras the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health said that the COVID-19 pandemic has put immense pressure on public health systems around the world, and that States must ensure the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health are met as they respond to the crisis.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is alarmed that widespread food shortages and malnutrition in the country have been exacerbated by COVID-19 measures and called for urgent Government and international action to ensure food supplies.
    Read more...
  • A group of UN experts called on the Indian Government to urgently comply with a Supreme Court order to ensure the wellbeing of more than 100 million internal migrant workers suffering hardship after COVID-19 measures forced them to travel long distances home, many on foot.
    Read more...
  • Mr. David Boyd, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment said transformative actions were urgently required to protect the environment and human rights, and address the drivers of climate disruption, biodiversity loss, toxic pollution and zoonotic diseases.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Olivier De Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights called on Spain to widen coverage and eligibility for its new minimum income scheme, saying the plan shows how States can take advantage of the economic crisis sparked by the global COVID-19 pandemic to address extreme poverty and reduce inequality.
    Read more...
  • A group of UN human rights experts urged the United States Government to reduce the population in places of detention to prevent large outbreaks of COVID-19 and ease the mounting pressure on staff and the penitentiary system as a whole.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the Special Rapporteur on the right to housing and Ms. Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders urged the government of Kenya to immediately halt all evictions during the COVID-19 crisis and protect the safety of human rights defenders who are under threat for working for the rights of the evictees.
    Read more...
  • A group of ten human rights experts have called on the government of Malaysia to halt an ongoing crackdown on migrants, journalists and civil society in the context of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and strongly oppose xenophobia and hate speech against migrants.
    Read more...
  • The new Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay, expressed serious concerns over the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on indigenous peoples beyond the health threat.
    Read more...
  • As countries begin to ease recent restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, a group of seventeen human rights experts call on Governments and businesses to ensure all workers are protected from exposure to COVID-19.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Víctor Madrigal-Borloz the independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, speaking on the occasion of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) on 17 May 2020, has urged that the governments worldwide to ensure COVID-19 emergency measures do not worsen inequalities or structural barriers faced by people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, or lead to increased violence and discrimination against them.
    Read more...
  • The new Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Ms. Yuefen Li, called on international financial institutions, G20 and private creditors to extend the announced six-month debt standstill to low-income and debt-distressed middle-income countries until at least the middle of next year. The COVID-19 pandemic has widely exposed the debt vulnerability of many developing countries, she said.
    Read more...
  • Three human rights experts urged Hong Kong Special Administrative Region authorities to drop immediately the criminal prosecution of 15 pro-democracy activists who participated in peaceful protests in the city last year. The charges were filed at a time when protests are restricted for COVID-19 prevention.
    Read more...
  • Two human rights experts today called on the Government of Bulgaria to stop hate speech and racial discrimination against the Roma minority in its response to COVID-19, and halt police operations targeting Roma neighbourhoods during the pandemic.
    Read more...
  • A group of independent UN experts today recalled that "the prohibition of arbitrary detention is absolute even during times of public emergencies" and urged governments worldwide to prevent arbitrary deprivation of liberty in the context of the measures currently adopted for controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
    Read more...

  • Ms. Mary Lawlor the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has warned Kyrgyzstan that if it does not immediately release imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, the world would see the country is continuing to flout its obligations to guarantee the right to a fair trial even when the increased risk that COVID-19 poses to incarcerated elder prisoners like him with underlying health conditions.
    Read more...
  • A group of six human rights experts urge Belarus to release children and young people jailed for drug offences amid COVID-19 crisis.
    Read more...

  • A group of three UN experts demanded that Venezuela detail plans to tackle the devastating impact of the country’s economic crisis on human rights and also urged the United States to immediately lift sanctions that compound suffering especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Read more...

  • Mr Obiora C. Okafor, theIndependent Expert on human rights and international solidarity said that the States and non-state actors must cooperate much more closely in the struggle to fully respect human rights after the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. In this regard, he urged the States at theUN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly to adopt the Draft UN Declaration on Human Rights and International Solidarity.
    Read more...

  • Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh, the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, said between 42 million and 66 million children worldwide are already in a precarious socio-economic situation, even before the hidden impact of the COVID-19 crisis emerges. Any new forms of sexual exploitation and abuse of them during COVID-19 lockdowns will have lifelong implications for millions worldwide. Read more...

  • Mr. Tomoya Obokata, who assumed the role of the Special Rapporteur on the contemporary forms of slavery on 1 May, urged Governments worldwide to increase protection for those most vulnerable to drifting into exploitative jobs. Inaction could lead to a sharp rise in the number of people being pushed into slavery because of the COVID-19 crisis. Read more...

  • Mr. Olivier De Schutter, who started on 1 May 2020 as the new Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights emphasized that the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need to invest heavily in a greener economy to create jobs and reduce inequalities.
    Read more...
  • Mr David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the occasion of World Press Freedom day, said that the criminalisation of journalism must end. That can start with releasing journalists from detention as a matter of urgency. Since the COVID-19 outbreak emerged early this year, I have received alarming accounts of official retaliation against journalists under the guise of spreading disinformation.
    Read more...
  • A group of independent UN rights experts called on Secretary-General António Guterres to urgently step up efforts to fulfil a United Nations pledge to help victims of a cholera epidemic in Haiti that killed over 10,000 victims. “The importance of relief is even more urgent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could deal a double blow to victims of the cholera outbreak and their families,” the experts said.
    Read more...
  • A group of UN experts urged the Philippines government not to discriminate against indigenous peoples in favour of business interests and when enforcing anti-COVID19 measures.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity said that Hungary must not target trans and gender diverse people under the guise of protecting health and should strictly limit the use of emergency power to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Read more...
  • A group of seven UN human rights experts called on the United States to lift its economic and financial embargo on Cuba that is obstructing humanitarian responses to help the country’s health care system fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Read more...
  • A group of five UN human rights experts expressed their concern about the deterrent effect of attacks in Venezuela on health and other workers may have on the legitimate work of human rights defenders working to safeguard human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and during an election year, where the exercise of freedom of expression and information is essential.
    Read more...
  • The Independent Expert on human rights and foreign debt, Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Mr. Philip Alston, warned that Brazil should immediately drop misguided austerity policies that are endangering lives and increase spending to combat inequality and poverty exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Read more...
  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mr. Fabián Salvioli, urged that urgent measures to protect against COVID-19 in overcrowded jails should not lead to impunity for persons convicted in many countries for serious violations of human rights, crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes.
    Read more...

  • The Working Group on Business and Human Rights said that governments and business must prioritise the wellbeing and rights of all in society, and particularly vulnerable workers, as they try to keep firms and economies afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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  • A group of ten UN human rights experts warned that Cameroon need to put an end to escalating intimidation and aggression towards human rights defenders to ensure they can continue their work and NGOs operate safely.
    Read more...

  • UN rights experts fear Uganda is using COVID-19 emergency powers to target LGBT people.
    Read more...
  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Mr. Felipe González Morales urged the US government to use urgently readily available alternatives to detention for migrants held in overcrowded and unsanitary administrative centres to counter the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.
    Read more...
  • A group of five UN human rights experts urged Israel not to discriminate against thousands of Palestinian prisoners facing high-risk exposure to COVID-19 and to release the most vulnerable – particularly women, children, older persons and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
    Read more...
  • The Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Diego García-Sayán outlines urgent steps (seven key guidelines) to ensure justice systems are not paralysed by COVID-19.
    Read more...
  • The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Mr. Philip Alston warned that ‘Responses to COVID-19 are failing people in poverty worldwide’.
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  • Mr. Ahmed Shaheed the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, warns against religious hatred and intolerance during COVID-19 outbreak.
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  • Mr. Javaid Rehman the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Ms. Agnes Callamard the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have said that they are highly disturbed that the Iranian authorities are reacting to protests in prisons over COVID-19 by using torture and ill-treatment that results in extra-judicial killings, or through executions.
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  • The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls reminded that governments must ensure women from diverse groups and backgrounds are included in decisions at the local, national and international level in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement has been endorsed by six other special procedures experts.
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  • A group of 13 UN human rights experts called on Iran to expand its temporary release of thousands of detainees to include prisoners of conscience and dual and foreign nationals still being held despite serious risk of COVID-19 infection.
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  • A group of 57 UN Human rights experts have expressed grave concern at the multiplication of accounts of police killings and other acts of violence within the context of COVID-19 emergency measures.
    Read more...
  • The Cambodian Government's new state of emergency law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic risks violating the right to privacy, silencing free speech and criminalising peaceful assembly warned Ms. Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.
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  • Anti-Semitic hate speech has risen alarmingly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis and must be rejected, said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed.
    Read more...
  • Mr. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights warned that the poor in the United States are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government must urgently take additional steps to prevent tens of millions of middle-class Americans from being plunged into poverty.
    Read more...
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on right to health Mr. Dainius Pūras, cautioned governments not to fail to protect persons who use drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven other experts have also endorsed this statement.
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  • Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights urged States to increase spending that targets inequalities and poverty caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and not just bail out corporations, banks and investors without human rights or social conditions attached.
    Read more...
  • Mr. David R. Boyd the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the  environment reminded States not to use COVID-19 as an excuse to weaken environmental protection.
    Read more...
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, in a statement reminded States that responses to Covid 19 threat should not halt freedoms of assembly and association, instead they should respond in a manner compliant with their human rights obligations. In particular, the Special Rapporteur has detailed ten key principles.
    Read more...
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Mr. Saad Alfarargi today reminded governments and international financial institutions to stay true to their commitment under the 2030 agenda and to their promise ‘to leave no one behind’ in their response to COVID-19 crisis. The statement is also endorsed by 32 other SP mandates.
    Read more...
  • The UN independent human rights expert on Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee has urged the country to allow free flow of information and aid to protect right to health in COVID-19 crisis.
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  • The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Mr. Fernand de Varennes, urges governments to redouble efforts for the protection of human rights and the promotion of equality and non-discrimination for all, including Roma minorities, in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Read more...
  • UN human rights experts have appealed to States to boost child protection measures to help safeguard the welfare of millions of children worldwide who may be more exposed to violence, sale, trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Read more...
  • The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in a statement made an urgent appeal for governments to commit to racial equity and racial equality in providing health services for all during the COVID-19 crisis or risk a higher death rate because of discrimination.
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  • UN experts call on Governments to adopt urgent measures to protect migrants and trafficked persons in their response to COVID-19. Read more:
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  •  Ms. Alena Douhan, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights called for the lifting of all unilateral sanctions that obstruct the humanitarian responses of sanctioned States, in order to enable their health care systems to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives.
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  • Ms. Daniela Kravetz, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea urged the State to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in its overcrowded jails by immediately releasing all political prisoners, low-risk offenders and others such as the sick and elderly who are particularly vulnerable to illness or death.
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  • The Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons has urged States not to forget internally displaced persons. He said that States must immediately step-up their measures to protect the 40 million internally displaced people worldwide from the COVID-19 threat.
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  • The Special Rapporteur on food called for the immediate lifting of international sanctions to prevent hunger crises in countries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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  • Mr. Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues reminded States that exploitation of COVID-19-related fears by groups and politicians to scapegoat minorities is leading to an alarming rise in verbal and physical abuses against Chinese and other minorities, with some even being denied access to health care and information about the pandemic.
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  • Mr. Yao Agbetse, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in CAR warned that the Central African Republic (CAR) is struck by the COVID-19 pandemic and is heading towards a certain health disaster if hostilities do not stop immediately.
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  • Mr. Baskut Tuncak the UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances urged States and businesses must urgently step up their efforts to ensure that health care workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide receive adequate protective equipment.
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  • Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, has warned the States of likely rise in domestic violence including its effects on women and children following restrictive measures advocated to fight COVID-19.
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  • The UN expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons called 'unacceptable' the highest risks faced by older persons during this pandemic crisis and called for societies to exercise solidarity and better protect older persons who are bearing the lion share.
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  • A group of UN Special Procedures experts again urged States to assist without exception to all during these times of COVID crisis and reminded that everyone has right to live saving interventions.
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  • On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance said Governments must ensure that their response to the COVID-19 pandemic does not contribute to xenophobia and racial discrimination, and must eradicate xenophobia  throughout all State policy and messaging.
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  • A group of UN special Procedures mandate holders reminded States that COVID-19 will not be stopped without providing safe water to people living in vulnerability.
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  • The UN Special Rapporteur on racism, xenophobia and related intolerance and the Working Group on peoples of African Descent on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminded that racism and xenophobia remains a global challenges. Forms of racial violence, exclusion, and hateful supremacist rhetoric continue to afflict communities, and structural and institutionalized forms of discrimination also remain pervasive. In this context, the human rights system provides a vital resource—principled and practical guidance on how to combat discrimination and intolerance.
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  • Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights called on States to immediately put finance to service human rights in order to mitigate COVID 19 related crisis.
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  • The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression joined international experts from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to issue a statement on the growing disruptions to information flow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They urged that Governments must promote and protect access to and free flow of information during pandemic.
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  • The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 has urged Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to live up to their international legal responsibilities by ensuring that the right to health is fully provided to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing said as Governments worldwide are relying on people to stay home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, they must take urgent measures to prevent anyone falling into homelessness and ensure access to adequate housing for those without.
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  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities has warned that little has been done to provide people with disabilities with the guidance and support needed to protect them during the ongoing COVID-19  pandemic, even though many of them are part of the high-risk group.
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  • A group of UN human rights experts have urged States to avoid overreach of security measures in their response to the coronavirus outbreak and reminded them that emergency powers should not be used to quash dissent.
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  • The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, has urged North Korea and the international community to join forces to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
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Several SP mandate holders have issued or plan to issue their upcoming reports to the Human Rights Council / General Assembly relating to the crisis in order to provide specific guidance and recommendations.

  • In response to the invitation of the Human Rights Council to dedicate a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of all human rights by persons in extreme poverty the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty has prepared an unofficial report entitled "Looking back to look ahead: A rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery"
  • The Special Rapporteur on the negative effect of unilateral coercive measures has decided on the title of her report to GA 75 to be : An overview and assessment of the impact of unilateral sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most affected rights and population groups, and the effectiveness and sufficiency of humanitarian exemptions
  • The Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members has decided on the theme of her report to the HRC (June 2021) to be on the impact of COVID-19 on persons affected by leprosy.
  • Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights is planning to issue report to the GA (October 2020) on the theme “Addressing the COVID-19 Debt related Problems of Developing Countries from a Human Rights perspective.”
  • The Special Rapporteur on right to education has submitted report to Human Right Council at its’ 44th session that dealt with the issue “Right to education: impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the right to education; concerns, challenges and opportunities
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to health’s report to the GA75 provides formal comment on COVID-19 from a right-to-health perspective. It applies principles developed in the current mandate holder’s previous reports and their contribution to COVID-19 spread and impact.
  • The Special Rapporteur on violence against women will focus her upcoming report to the GA (October 2020) to the “Impact of COVID-19 on violence against women, with particular focus on domestic violence”.
  • The Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has decided on the theme of his report to the GA (October 2020) to be on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT persons.
  • The Special Rapporteur on cultural rights have decide to submit her report to HRC (March 2021) on COVID19, culture and cultural rights.
  • The Independent Expert on older persons plans to submit to the GA (October 2020) a report on “the enjoyment of all human rights of older persons on COVID-19 and its impact on the human rights of older persons”.
  • The Working Group on the Peoples of African Descent is planning to submit their upcoming report to the HRC (September 2020) on “the impact of COVID-19 on the human rights of people of African descent”.
  • Special Rapporteur on the Sale and sexual exploitation of children is planning to dedicate her HRC (March 2021) report to the “Impact of COVID-19 and its response to the push and pull factors for sale and sexual exploitation of children”.
  • Special Rapporteur on adequate housing plans to issue his GA report (October 2020) on the theme “Impact of COVID-19 on the right to adequate housing”
  • Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and waste plans to prepare his HRC report (September 2020) on the theme “COVID-19 and prevention of exposure”
  • Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is planning to issue his report to the GA (October 2020) on “COVID-19 impacts and reflection on priorities by new mandate-holder”
  • Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is planning to issue his report to HRC (September 2020) on “COVID-19 and introducing priority issues as defined by the new MH, e.g. focus on vulnerable groups and how they are affected by slavery”
  • Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy is planning to issue his upcoming report to the GA (October 2020) on the theme “Oversight of surveillance and  Health-data regulations in the context of COVID-19”
  • Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression issued the HRC report on “Disease pandemics and the freedom of opinion and expression

Different mandate holders have been issuing call for inputs on different issues and situations around the crisis. The existing call for inputs are as below

  • A group of twelve Special Procedures experts have sent out joint questionnaire to prepare their upcoming thematic reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council or the General Assembly on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights. The questionnaire is meant to assist the human rights experts to obtain information and elaborate comprehensive recommendations on the measures taken by national, federal and local governments to protect their population and ensure the enjoyment of human rights, including particular groups at risk of discrimination or social exclusion. Please see the document: English | French | Spanish Deadline: 19 June 2020.

Inputs and responses received