Civicus Monitor alliance: Pandemic being used as guise to abuse civil rights across the world


Various governments around the world have been increasingly using Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to curb people of their basic civil rights.

Various governments around the world have been increasingly using Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to curb people of their basic civil rights. The finding was reported by Civicus Monitor, a civil society groups’ alliance. In its assessment of 196 countries, the alliance found that currently the global civil rights are at the cliff edge, with 87% of populations living in countries labelled as “repressed” and “closed”. This is an increase by 4% from last year’s figures. Curtailed civil rights include free speech, freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

The countries have suppressed people’s freedom to exercise civil rights by arresting protestors, use of excessive force, crackdown on journalists, and intimidating human rights activists. The report said that many governments have used the pandemic situation to “introduce or implement additional restrictions on civic freedoms.”

The group also categorized freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly under various categories based on methodology of combining several data. The categories include repressed, closed, obstructed, open and narrowed.

“The use of detention as the main tactic to restrict protests only shows the hypocrisy of governments using Covid-19 as a pretence to crack down on protests, as the virus is more likely to spread in confined spaces like prisons,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civicus Monitor’s research lead.

“Our research reflects a deepening civic space crisis across the globe and highlights how governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to further curtail rights, including by passing legislation to criminalise speech.”

Out of the 196 countries examined, only Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo have improved their ratings by moving from “closed” to “repressed”. “Closed” category is the worst rating for countries. Furthermore, 11 countries degraded in the ratings. These include Costa Rica, US, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Slovenia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Philippines.

Another highly noticeable trend noted by the group was specific trending and suppression of people belonging to LGBT+ community, immigrants and refugees.

The group is calling for governments to work in association with the human rights groups and defenders “to halt this downward spiral and push back against the authoritarian forces at work”.

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