COVID-19 and Human Rights Treaty Bodies

The crises unfolding with the COVID-19 pandemic are challenging the whole spectrum of rights enshrined in international human rights treaties. With the rapid spread of the coronavirus among prisons, detention centres and medical facilities, as well as rising reports of discrimination, abuses, derogations and income losses, special measures and international collaboration to protect the most vulnerable groups are urgent and paramount.

Since the early days of the pandemic, the treaty bodies have “urged global leaders to ensure that human rights are respected in government measures to tackle the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic”. A number of human rights treaty bodies have issued timely and specific recommendations to States, which also have great relevance for the work of other stakeholders, on a human rights-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These recommendations were published as guidance notes, advice, statements and press releases and are available in a Compilation of statements by human rights treaty bodies in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF | Word).

Recommendations (search by type of publication)

CEDAW: Guidance Note on CEDAW and COVID-19 (22 April 2020)

This guidance note, issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), offers detailed recommendations on a range of measures that States parties should take to uphold women’s rights as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures aim to prevent any direct or indirect discrimination against women in the context of COVID-19 and to ensure women’s equal representation in formulating responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies to recover from the crisis.

CMW: Joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants by the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (26 May 2020) (PDF | Word)

This joint guidance note by the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants highlights the serious and disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrants and their families and their valuable contributions on the front lines of the responses to COVID-19. Drawing attention to the measures adopted by States to protect migrants and their families, the guidance note offers recommendations to strengthen the protection of migrants, regardless of their status.

SPT: Advice of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to the National Preventive Mechanism of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland regarding compulsory quarantine for Coronavirus, adopted at its 40th session (10 to 14 February 2020)
(in PDF available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish | in Word available in English)

SPT: Advice of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to States parties and national preventive mechanisms relating to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, CAT/OP/10 (7 April 2020)
(in PDF available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish | in Word available in English)

The advices by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture underlines that places of deprivation liberty are particularly affected by the human rights challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They guide States parties and National Preventive Mechanisms on how to approach these challenges.

CRPD: Joint Statement: Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 by the Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility (1 April 2020)
Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

The Joint Statement recommends measures to ensure that the lives and rights of persons with disabilities are appropriately protected in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CESCR: Statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and economic, social and cultural rights by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/2020/1 (6 April 2020)
(available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

The statement by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) highlights the most important impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic, social and cultural rights and makes recommendations to States parties on a response consistent with their obligations under the Covenant.

CRC: The Committee on the Rights of the Child warns of the grave physical, emotional and psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and calls on States to protect the rights of children (8 April 2020)
(available in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Japanese)

The statement by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) draws attention to the situation of children, particularly those in situations of vulnerability, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many children are gravely affected physically, emotionally and psychologically, especially in countries that have declared states of emergencies and mandatory lockdowns.

CEDAW: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women - Call for joint action in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic (21 April 2020)

In this statement, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) calls for joint action against the Covid-19 pandemic from a women’s rights perspective. Among others, it introduces the “CEDAW Knowledge Hub” initiative of the CEDAW Committtee to make its expertise on women’s rights available in creative ways and peer-to-peer learning webinars, based on the #Faith4Rights toolkit. 

CCPR: Human Rights Committee - Statement on derogations from the Covenant in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, CCPR/C/128/2 (24 April 2020)
(in PDF: Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish; in Word: Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

The Human Rights Committee issued this statement to provide guidance to States parties on the requirements and conditions laid down in article 4 of the Covenant concerning derogations from the Covenant.

Chairs of the treaty bodies: UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies call for human rights approach in fighting COVID-19 (24 March 2020)
Arabic | Chinese | English | Russian | Spanish

In their statement, the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies urge global leaders to ensure that human rights are respected in government measures to tackle the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They make recommendations on a number of human rights, including the right to life, access to health care, non-discrimination, the specific rights of vulnerable groups of people and states of emergencies.

CESCR: COVID-19: UN Experts call for international solidarity to alleviate financial burdens of developing countries and the most vulnerable - Statement of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (7 April 2020)

In this statement, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights calls on global leaders to work in solidarity to relieve financial burden of developing countries through international financial institutions, and to safeguard jobs and wages, as well as secure food and medical supplies for the most vulnerable.

CEDAW: Raising women’s voices and leadership in COVID-19 policies (22 April 2020)
Arabic | Chinese | English | Russian

This press release introduces the Guidance Note and the Call for Action by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

CMW: COVID-19: Governments must protect the rights of migrants during the pandemic and beyond, UN experts urge (26 May 2020)

In this press release, the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants introduce their Joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants.


Recommendations (search by treaty body)

Press release: UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies call for human rights approach in fighting COVID-19 (24 March 2020)
Arabic | Chinese | English | Russian | Spanish

In their statement, the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies urge global leaders to ensure that human rights are respected in government measures to tackle the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They make recommendations on a number of human rights in the context of COVID-19, including the right to life, access to health care, non-discrimination, the specific rights of vulnerable groups of people and states of emergencies.

Statement: Statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and economic, social and cultural rights by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/2020/1 (6 April 2020)
(available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

The statement by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) highlights the most important impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic, social and cultural rights and makes recommendations to States parties on a response consistent with their obligations under the Covenant.

Press release: COVID-19: UN Experts call for international solidarity to alleviate financial burdens of developing countries and the most vulnerable - Statement of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (7 April 2020)

In this statement, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights calls on global leaders to work in solidarity to relieve financial burden of developing countries through international financial institutions, and to safeguard jobs and wages, as well as secure food and medical supplies for the most vulnerable.

Statement: Human Rights Committee - Statement on derogations from the Covenant in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, CCPR/C/128/2 (24 April 2020)
(in PDF: Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish; in Word: Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

The Human Rights Committee issued this statement to provide guidance to States parties on the requirements and conditions laid down in article 4 of the Covenant concerning derogations from the Covenant.

Statement: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women - Call for joint action in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic (21 April 2020)

In this statement, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) calls for joint action against the COVID-19 pandemic from a women’s rights perspective. Among others, it introduces the “CEDAW Knowledge Hub” initiative of the CEDAW Committee to make its expertise on women’s rights available in creative ways and peer-to-peer learning webinars, based on the #Faith4Rights toolkit. 

Guidance note: Guidance Note on CEDAW and COVID-19 (22 April 2020)

This guidance note was issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and offers detailed guidance on a range of measures that States parties should take to uphold women’s rights as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures aim to prevent any direct or indirect discrimination against women in the context of COVID-19 and to ensure women’s equal representation in formulating responses to COVID-19 and strategies to recover from the crisis.

Press release: Raising women’s voices and leadership in COVID-19 policies (22 April 2020)
Arabic | Chinese | English | Russian

This press release introduces the Guidance Note and the Call for Action by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Statement: The Committee on the Rights of the Child warns of the grave physical, emotional and psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and calls on States to protect the rights of children (8 April 2020)
(available in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Japanese)

The statement by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) draws attention to the situation of children, particularly those in situations of vulnerability, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many children are gravely affected physically, emotionally and psychologically, especially in countries that have declared states of emergencies and mandatory lockdowns.

Guidance note: Joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants by the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (26 May 2020) (PDF | Word)

This joint guidance note by the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants highlights the serious and disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrants and their families and their valuable contributions on the front lines of the responses to COVID-19. Drawing attention to the measures adopted by States to protect migrants and their families, the guidance note offers recommendations to strengthen the protection of migrants, regardless of their status.

Press release: COVID-19: Governments must protect the rights of migrants during the pandemic and beyond, UN experts urge (26 May 2020)

In this press release, the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants introduce their Joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants.

Advice: Advice of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to the National Preventive Mechanism of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland regarding compulsory quarantine for Coronavirus, adopted at its 40th session (10 to 14 February 2020)
(in PDF available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish | in Word available in English)

Advice: Advice of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to States parties and national preventive mechanisms relating to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, CAT/OP/10 (7 April 2020)
(in PDF available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish | in Word available in English)

The advices by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture underline that places of deprivation liberty are particularly affected by the human rights challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They guide States parties and National Preventive Mechanisms on how to approach these challenges.

Statement: Joint Statement: Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 by the Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility (1 April 2020)
Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

The Joint Statement was issued by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility recommends measures to ensure that the lives and rights of persons with disabilities are appropriately protected in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.





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