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APF members respond to COVID-19 pandemic

Graphic: A man sits on a street wearing a face mask

As countries across the region grapple with COVID-19, NHRIs are working diligently to help keep their communities safe, inclusive and cohesive.

As countries across the Asia Pacific region grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) are working diligently to help keep their communities safe, inclusive and cohesive.

They have been supporting the government's public health messages, monitoring access to health services, ensuring respect for the rule of law during lockdowns and standing against the voices of fear and prejudice.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHRIs can be beacons of hope and humanity in the way they go about their work.

Asia Pacific Forum Logo Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director, APF secretariat

In Iraq: Monitoring teams from the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights in Baghdad and provincial centres have compiled information for a statistical analysis of measures taken by health agencies and local crisis centres to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has called on authorities to provide food and financial support to families in need.

In the Philippines: The Commission on Human Rights has reminded the government that any exercise of emergency powers to deal with the COVID-19 crisis must for a limited time and be done "with the proper guidance of the law and the principles of human rights". The CHR has also published information to support health agencies tailor public messages for vulnerable groups of the communities, including children and people with disabilities.

In Afghanistan: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has called on the Taliban to allow health workers into militant-controlled areas of the country in order to provide public health advice and support to communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Palestine: The Independent Commission for Human Rights has prepared a comprehensive paper on Deprivation of Liberty Amid the Outbreak of COVID-19, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Graphic: 'Stay at home' poster

In Malaysia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka: National human rights institutions have prepared social media resources and other advocacy materials to promote inclusion and public health messages, as well as warn against prejudice amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Thailand: The National Human Rights Commission published statements on 10 March and 23 March with recommendations for government on tackling the pandemic and upholding human rights.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt

Paul Hunt, Chief Commissioner with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, tested positive for COVID-19, after returning to the country on 15 March from meetings in Geneva and London. He immediately went into self-isolation on his return.

"I enjoyed the human right to medical care, but I also had a duty to the community to self-isolate, take the swab-test and now studiously follow the advice of the health professionals. Others have the same duty," Mr Hunt told stuff.co.nz.

Image credits

  1. A man sits on a street wearing a face mask - Photo by jusdevoyage on Unsplash
  2. 'Stay at home' poster - Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
  3. Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt - New Zealand Human Rights Commission