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Article

26 Sep 2022

Author:
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Rights group calls on businesses and international financial institutions to consider and minimise impact of Covid-19 on human rights defenders

"Covid-19: How a global crisis has affected human rights defenders", 22 September 2022

[...] The Covid-19 pandemic has caused broad consequences for civil society organisations and human rights defenders across the world. In this global report, the Observatory highlights several trends of repression that targeted human rights defenders over the past two years. The report documents and analyses instrumentalisation of Covid-19 by some governments to suppress non-violent human rights activism and reinforce surveillance measures...

... In recent years, facial recognition, geolocation tracking and video surveillance technologies have been rapidly emerging all around the world. The Pegasus scandal is yet more evidence of the massive use of surveillance tools to stifle and monitor human rights critics. The Covid-19 crisis has been further used by various governments as a reason to justify the increase in the digital surveillance of the population...

Recommendations [...] To businesses and international financial institutions:

  • respect the rights of human rights defenders to carry out their work in a safe environment, especially within the Covid-19 context, and call for the repeal of any unnecessary and disproportionate restriction on their rights;
  • assess how the different business measures or business decisions taken as a result of the Covid-19 context could result on negative impacts on human rights and environmental defenders, and address, prevent and mitigate those impacts;
  • analyse how the human rights due diligence processes have been impacted as a result of Covid-19 measures, specifically how consultation with human rights defenders might be restricted, and adopt the necessary measures to address those impacts, respecting all the necessary health measures;
  • Bear in mind the potential misuse of technology created for the purpose of enabling governments to monitor and control the spread of the Covid-19 virus to monitor and crack down on the activities of human rights defenders and put in place safeguards to minimise this potential misuse.

[...]

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