COVID-19 and Special Procedures
Special procedures have taken various initiatives in relation to COVID-19 with the objective to stress the importance of adopting a human rights approach in addressing the crisis. The principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability in particular need to be applied. Particular attention should be paid to people in vulnerable situations. Universal human rights principles must prevail over the spread of fake news, prejudice, discrimination, inequalities and violence.
A general call stressing that “everyone has right to life saving interventions” was initiated by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and issued by more than 60 mandate holders. They stressed that the COVID-19 crisis cannot be solved with public health and emergency measures only; all other human rights must be addressed too.
Mandate holders have continued to identify trends, emerging issues and formulate advice in connection with the emergency. As of 18 May 2020, they issued 67 press releases, 9 guidance and other tools and 12 reports to HRC/GA are planned or presented. A one page infographic on SP actions is available at this
Special Procedures have examined allegations of human rights violations or concerns through the communication procedure, and have so far issued 55 (as of 18 May 2020) letters related to concerns directly connected to COVID-19 or the measures adopted in the context of the pandemic.
On 30 April 2020, Special Procedures held a virtual informal conversation with the Human Rights Council, whose aim was to present and discuss the work done by mandate holders in relation to COVID-19. Ms. Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, President of the Human Rights Council, called Special Procedures “the eyes and ears of the Council” and emphasised both the creativity and innovation of the tools and means developed by them to assist States and other stakeholders in their response to the crisis. Ms. Anita Ramasastry and Mr. Dainius Pūras, representing the Coordination Committee, highlighted the broad variety of actions undertaken by mandate holders and presented three documents reflecting the contribution made so far by Special Procedures: a working report collecting all Special Procedures’ key messages and public actions in relation to COVID-19, an informational note and a flyer showing at a glance the range of outputs and tools issued by mandate holders. Member States and civil society representatives commended the timely and substantive response of mandate holders to the challenges created by COVID-19, demonstrating that Special Procedures are the crown jewel of the Council.
Special procedures mandate holders have issued various recommendations to States and other stakeholders through various public actions, such as guidance tools, dispatches, trackers, videos or press releases, and they stand ready to assist. Mandate holders are also addressing these issues through their communication procedure and their reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. These recommendations cover a broad range of human rights issues, such as the right to health, the right to housing, poverty, freedom of expression, racism and discrimination, the right to water, the situation of older persons, domestic violence, the consequences of the state of exception, emergence measures or specific groups, communities and populations. A compilation of these actions is listed below: