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Covid used as pretext to curtail civil rights around the globe, finds report

The state of civil liberties around the globe is bleak, in response to a brand new examine which discovered that 87% of the worldwide inhabitants had been dwelling in nations deemed “closed”, “repressed” or “obstructed”.

The determine is a 4% enhance on final yr’s, as civil rights had been discovered to have deteriorated in nearly each nation on this planet throughout Covid-19. Various governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to curtail rights akin to free speech, peaceable meeting and freedom of affiliation, in response to Civicus Monitor, an alliance of civil society teams which assessed 196 international locations.

Through the use of strategies akin to detention of protesters, extreme use of pressure, censorship, assaults on journalists, and harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, many governments have used Covid-19 to “introduce or implement further restrictions on civic freedoms”, the report mentioned.

The group categorised elementary freedoms of affiliation, peaceable meeting and expression as both “closed”, “repressed”, “obstructed”, “narrowed” or “open”, primarily based on a methodology which mixes a number of information sources.

Greater than 1 / 4 dwell within the worst rated international locations – “closed” – the place state and non-state actors routinely imprison, injure and kill individuals for trying to train their rights. China, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan are among the many international locations on this class.

“The usage of detention as the primary tactic to limit protests solely exhibits the hypocrisy of governments utilizing Covid-19 as a pretence to crack down on protests, [as] the virus is extra more likely to unfold in confined areas like prisons,” mentioned Civicus Monitor’s analysis lead Marianna Belalba Barreto.

“Our analysis displays a deepening civic house disaster throughout the globe and highlights how governments are utilizing the pandemic as an excuse to additional curtail rights, together with by passing laws to criminalise speech.”

Of the 196 international locations assessed for the examine, simply two – the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan – improved their score, shifting from “closed” to “repressed”. Eleven international locations had been downgraded, amongst them the US, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Iraq, the Philippines and Slovenia. General, the report says, the outlook for individuals’s civil liberties is bleak.

Within the US, as thousands and thousands of protesters took half within the Black Lives Matter motion, the Trump administration responded with extreme pressure, police violence and mass detentions, the examine discovered. Lately, a number of states have enacted restrictive legal guidelines which restrict individuals’s proper to peacefully protest, whereas throughout the US, reporters had been more and more detained or injured whereas conducting interviews or masking protests, researchers discovered.

Chile, Costa Rica and Ecuador had been additionally downgraded within the examine.

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

In west Africa, 4 international locations – Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger and Togo – had been downgraded from “obstructed” to “repressed”.

One other development famous by the analysis group was the direct focusing on of excluded teams akin to LGBT+ individuals, immigrants or refugees, mentioned Civicus Monitor researcher Josef Benedict.

“In Uganda, we noticed LGBT individuals focused below the pretext of Covid-19 … whereas in India, casual migrants, who’ve already been negatively impacted by authorities insurance policies, confronted additional violations by the state,” mentioned Benedict.

“The growth of surveillance can be of concern. China, which already had an in depth surveillance trade, used the pandemic to increase that know-how, and in Armenia and Israel, the governments took monitoring measures far past what is suitable below worldwide human rights regulation.”

Civicus Monitor is asking for governments to work with civil society and human rights defenders “to halt this downward spiral and push again in opposition to the authoritarian forces at work”.

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