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Covid restrictions shouldn’t be used to hinder civil society, says PACE committee

Laws aimed at combating Covid “might be used to further restrict the rights and fundamental freedoms of civil society actors”, PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee has warned.

Approving a report by Margreet De Boer (Netherlands, SOC), the committee said Covid restrictions had had a “deleterious effect” on the functioning of civil society , and the pandemic worsened problems already faced by NGOs.

On the other hand, some good practices also emerged, with many Council of Europe states providing financial or other support to NGOs, or showing flexibility over institutional and reporting requirements. NGOs themselves proved “very flexible”, and adapted to the Covid challenge, for example by adjusting their working methods, the parliamentarians said.

The committee urged states to avoid imposing “unnecessary and disproportionate” restrictions on human rights on the basis of existing laws to combat Covid-19, and to repeal any that were no longer justified by fighting the pandemic.

Civil society should also be adequately consulted on laws, policies and practices concerning them – as well as on the handling of the Covid pandemic, the committee said.

The report will be debated by the Assembly in due course.