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Latest COVID-19 updates

    April 03, 2020

    People across the world are currently facing an unprecedented global health emergency due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Technology can and should play an important role during this effort to save lives, including by spreading public health messages and increasing access to health care. However, in the name of combatting the disease, some governments are rushing to expand their use of surveillance technologies to track individuals and even entire populations.

    If left unchecked and unchallenged, these measures have the potential to fundamentally alter the future of privacy and other human rights.

    Is surveillance to tackle COVID-19 legal?

    April 02, 2020

    Authorities in a number of countries across the Americas, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago, among others, are detaining migrants and asylum seekers in a dangerous and discriminatory manner based solely on their migration status, Amnesty International said today. In doing so, they are pushing people into unhygienic and unsafe environments, contrary to international human rights and public health guidelines.

    “Migration status is irrelevant to every human being’s dignity and their right to live. Instead of putting people’s health at increased risk, governments should be doing everything in their power to protect them,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    “In order to effectively combat COVID-19 in the Americas and avert thousands of preventable deaths, states should swiftly release people from immigration detention, only detain migrants in extraordinary cases and ensure their access to lifesaving healthcare without discrimination.”

    CANADA

    April 02, 2020
    More than 100 civil society groups sign joint statement setting out conditions that must be met before the use of surveillance technology to fight pandemic

    With governments across the world rapidly expanding the use of digital surveillance in an attempt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International and other leading NGOs have set out strict conditions that must be met to safeguard human rights and prevent surveillance overreach. 

    More than 100 civil society groups joined Amnesty in signing the statement, including Access Now, Human Rights Watch and Privacy International.

    “Technology can play an important role in the global effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this does not give governments carte blanche to expand digital surveillance. The recent past has shown governments are reluctant to relinquish temporary surveillance powers. We must not sleepwalk into a permanent expanded surveillance state now,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim, Deputy Director of Amnesty Tech.

    April 02, 2020

    April 2, 2020 – In the lead up to Refugee Rights Day, refugee, human rights, legal and civil liberties organizations are renewing their call for the Government of Canada to reopen the Canada-US border to refugee claims. Effective March 21, 2020, an Order-In-Council prohibits refugee claimants arriving from the United States to enter Canada for the purposes of refugee protection.

    The Canadian Council for Refugees, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Amnesty International, and BC Civil Liberties Association jointly call on the government to reconsider its closure of the Canada-US border to refugees. This closure violates international law. With Refugee Rights Day being marked across Canada on April 4, these organizations are calling attention to the grave threat to refugee rights with the prohibition on refugee arrivals at the land border.

    April 01, 2020

    Amnesty International has published recommendations today for states in Europe urging them to ensure that their responses to COVID-19 are in line with their international and regional human rights obligations.

    Europe at a Crossroads sets out clear guidance on what governments should and should not do in response to the ongoing pandemic. These include ensuring people’s right to health, guaranteeing the rights to housing, water and sanitation, and ensuring protection for the most vulnerable in society.

    “Restrictions on some of our most basic human rights are spreading across Europe almost as fast as the virus itself. Whilst many of these are necessary to protect public health, history will not judge kindly those that use the pandemic as a pretext for discrimination, repression or censorship,” said Marie Struthers, Europe Director at Amnesty International. 

    March 31, 2020

    The Syrian authorities must cooperate fully with UN agencies and humanitarian organizations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s prisons, detention centres and military hospitals, Amnesty International has warned.

    Prisoners and detainees, including tens of thousands of people arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared, are at risk of contracting the disease as they are held in unhygienic conditions in locations across the country operated by the country’s security forces.

    “In Syrian prisons and detention centres, COVID-19 could spread quickly due to poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water and severe overcrowding”, said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.

    “This government has a long record of denying prisoners and detainees the medical care and medicines that they urgently need. Anyone detained must have access to prevention and treatment services as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens lives.

    March 30, 2020

    David Griffiths is Director of the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty's International Secretariat in London, England

    The pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, a defining event of our times, will continue long after the virus subsides. When the immediate crisis is over many will have experienced unimaginable loss.

    Many will have lost loved ones, huge numbers will have lost jobs and perhaps homes, and hundreds of millions will have experienced the anxiety and loneliness of social isolation.

    But we will have gained something too –  a choice.

    When we emerge from this collective trauma we can choose to go back to our old trajectory. Or, we can learn from this experience and make different choices for the future.

    Every person on the planet has a stake in fighting this virus. As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), put it, “we have an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy: an enemy against humanity”.

    March 30, 2020

    Toronto, March 30, 2020 — Canada’s decision to shut the border to refugee claimants puts those individuals in danger, is out of step with public health measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, and runs counter to our international legal obligations. From moral, public health and legal perspectives, closing the border to refugee claimants is wrong.

    On March 19, 2020, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced new border entry restrictions that preserved the right to seek refugee protection while also protecting public health through non-discriminatory screening and self-isolation measures. Then, on March 20, the government abandoned this sensible and humane approach, and announced a new decision made with the US government to shut the border almost entirely to people seeking refugee protection in Canada when entering from the US.

    March 27, 2020
    At least 22 arrested, 7 charged amid crackdown on alleged “false information” about outbreak Authorities claim they are ‘working with Facebook’ to track down individuals Cambodia’s largest prison 500% over capacity

    Overcrowded and squalid prisons and detention centres risk becoming detonators for a major COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia that will make the pandemic much harder to control, said Amnesty International today, amid a mounting crackdown on people detained for “causing scares” by talking about the outbreak on social media.

    “Instead of addressing the overcrowding crisis in detention centres, Cambodian authorities have used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to further harass and detain government critics,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director. “Meanwhile, Cambodian prisons and drug detention centres are dangerously overcrowded and lack even the most basic health services. They are a ticking time bomb for the country and potentially its neighbours.”

    March 26, 2020

    The Colombian state must not use measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to weaken or withdraw protection for human rights defenders and social leaders, Amnesty International said today.

    “Colombia is one of the world’s most lethal countries for human rights defenders and social leaders and, in the context of COVID-19, they now face even greater risks. Due to the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic, state protection measures have been weakened, they can no longer keep moving from one location to another for their safety, and their attackers know that public security forces are focusing on issues related to the pandemic,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    “The Colombian authorities cannot let human rights defenders suffer attacks and threats. The state must maintain its protection schemes and must generate collective protection strategies for communities at risk, while implementing preventive measures to contain COVID-19.”

    March 25, 2020

    Ahead of tomorrow’s application by Julian Assange's lawyers calling for bail on the grounds that he is in imminent danger from COVID-19 spreading through the prison population, Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Europe Deputy Director of Research, said:

    “In light of the COVID-19 crisis, UK authorities should urgently consider releasing some people who are currently in detention or prison, especially those who are more at risk from the virus. Julian’s Assange’s claim of being vulnerable to COVID-19 must be rigorously examined.

    “Those with underlying medical conditions and the elderly should be immediately considered for alternatives to detention if they do not pose a threat to themselves or society, and there should be a presumption of release for people charged with a crime and awaiting trial.

    “The government should also consider amending sentencing guidelines to recommend non-custodial measures for people who have been convicted of lesser criminal offences.

    March 25, 2020

    Ahead of an extraordinary virtual meeting of the G20 group which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Amnesty International called on leaders to coordinate responses to help the most at-risk groups and people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “The response to this pandemic must be based on cooperation and sharing of resources, because national strategies will not be enough on their own. Not only is helping the most marginalized the right thing to do, inadequate healthcare in any part of the world is a risk to us all. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has shown how connected we all are,” said Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International.

    “On Thursday G20 leaders need to produce a concrete and coordinated plan for mobilizing resources to help people in the global south. They have a lot of financial measures at their disposal and they must consider them all. We will beat this virus together, for everyone, or not at all.”

    Background

    March 25, 2020
    Human rights organization recommends 10 guiding principles for pandemic response

    OTTAWA – Amnesty International is urging governments across Canada to establish oversight committees tasked with monitoring the human rights impact of decisions, policies and laws adopted to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “History has shown that, in times of crisis, governments often do not assess and redress human rights violations until after the fact,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English branch. “By taking proactive steps now, to put strong oversight in place, governments have an important opportunity to deliberately ensure that human rights concerns will be anticipated, identified and minimized from the outset.”

    March 24, 2020

    In response to the protest organized on 21 March by people deprived of their liberty in several Colombian prisons, who were calling for efficient measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which resulted in at least 23 deaths and 83 people being injured in Bogota’s “La Modelo” Medium Security Prison and Penitentiary, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that confronts us, there are growing concerns about the precarious situation of people deprived of their liberty across the Americas. In Colombia, overcrowded prisons make it impossible to isolate people who may have contracted the virus. In addition, limited access to health services and hygiene products, and the lack of constant water supplies, increase the risks of exposure to infection and affect recovery conditions.”

    March 24, 2020

    Amnesty International has published recommendations today for states in the Americas to ensure that their responses to COVID-19 are in line with their international human rights obligations, as well as flagging a series of human rights violations in the region that predate the pandemic but could be exacerbated by it.

    The paper, which sets out four things governments should do and four things they should not, affirms that states must not discriminate; leave high-risk groups behind; use repression or excessive force in enforcement of public health measures; or censor or limit access to evidence-based information or prevention. States must also guarantee workers’ rights and social security; guarantee access to adequate water, sanitation and health care for all; ensure a gender-focused response to the pandemic; and protect people’s right to privacy.

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