Covid used as pretext to curtail civil rights all over the world, finds report | International improvement

According to a new study that found that 87% of the world’s population lived in countries deemed “closed”, “oppressed” or “disabled”, the state of civil liberties around the world is bleak.

This corresponds to an increase of 4% compared to the previous year, as civil rights deteriorated in almost all countries in the world during Covid-19. According to Civicus Monitor, an alliance of civil society groups that assessed 196 countries, a number of governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to restrict rights such as freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and association.

Using methods such as detaining protesters, using excessive force, censorship, assaulting journalists, and harassing and intimidating human rights defenders, many governments have used Covid-19 to “introduce or implement additional restrictions on civil liberties,” the report said .

The group categorized the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression as either “closed”, “suppressed”, “obstructed”, “narrowed” or “open” based on a methodology that combines multiple data sources.

More than a quarter live in the worst-rated countries – “closed” – where state and non-state actors routinely detain, injure and kill people for trying to exercise their rights. China, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan belong to the countries in this category.

“The use of detention as the main tactic to curb protests only shows the hypocrisy of governments using Covid-19 as an excuse to crack down on protests. [as] The virus is more likely to spread in confined spaces like prisons, ”said Marianna Belalba Barreto, research director at Civicus Monitor.

“Our research reflects a deepening space crisis around the world and shows how governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to further curtail rights, including through passing laws criminalizing language.”

Of the 196 countries evaluated for the study, only two – the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan – improved their ratings, switching from “closed” to “suppressed”. Eleven countries were downgraded, including the United States, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Iraq, the Philippines and Slovenia. Overall, the report says, the outlook for people’s civil liberties is bleak.

In the US, the Trump administration responded with excessive violence, police violence and mass imprisonment as millions of protesters took part in the Black Lives Matter movement. In recent years, several states have passed restrictive laws restricting people’s right to peaceful protest, while in the US reporters have increasingly been arrested or injured while interviewing or reporting on protests.

Chile, Costa Rica and Ecuador were also downgraded in the study.

In Europe, “authoritarian” actions by governments using the pandemic “as a pretext to restrict freedoms” have restricted civil rights in Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Serbia.

In West Africa, four countries – Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger and Togo – were downgraded from “disabled” to “oppressed”.

Another trend noted by the research group was the direct targeting of excluded groups such as LGBT + people, immigrants or refugees, said Civicus Monitor researcher Josef Benedict.

“In Uganda we have targeted LGBT people under the pretext of Covid-19 … while in India, informal migrants who have already been negatively influenced by government policies have faced further violations by the state,” said Benedict.

“The expansion of surveillance is also a cause for concern. China, which already had a sizeable surveillance industry, took advantage of the pandemic to expand this technology, and in Armenia and Israel, the governments of Armenia and Israel took surveillance measures that went well beyond what is acceptable under international human rights law. “

Civicus Monitor urges governments to work with civil society and human rights defenders “to stop this downward spiral and take action against the authoritarian forces at work”.

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