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Measures restricting human rights taken to address health crises must be ‘lawful, proportionate and non-discriminatory’

“All measures restricting human rights taken in response to a public health emergency must be ‘lawful, proportionate and non-discriminatory’,” said the PACE Standing Committee, meeting today by videoconference. According to the parliamentarians, these restrictive measures should be reviewed in the light of the evolution of the pandemic, so that only the necessary restrictions remain in force.

The resolution adopted by the Standing Committee on the basis of the report by Vladimir Vardanyan (Armenia, EPP/CD) underlines that an unprecedented number of States have exercised their right to derogate from their obligations under the Convention with respect to measures taken in response to the pandemic, with severe restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly, and closures of educational establishments and premises used for commercial, sports, cultural and religious purposes.

States of emergency may allow for a more rapid and effective response to a major health crisis, but can be hazardous from the perspective of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, warned the parliamentarians, who pointed to risks regarding freedom of expression and media freedom, data protection, the functioning of judicial systems, detention conditions, and corruption linked to the massive increase in public expenditure on medical products and economic stimulus measures.

The adopted resolution calls for “a prompt, thorough and independent review of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic”, including its effectiveness and respect for human rights and the rule of law, so that in the event of another pandemic, the authorities can respond quickly, in accordance with Council of Europe standards.

Finally, PACE recommended that the Committee of Ministers “examine State practice in relation to derogations from the Convention” and adopt a recommendation to member States on derogations. PACE also invited it to instruct appropriate inter-governmental bodies to review national experience of responding to COVID-19, in order to share experience and good practice.