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Saudi Arabia exploits Coronavirus measures to increase repression: High Commissioner calls for respect for human rights amid the pandemic

لقرائته بالعربية اضغط هنا

Six months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not taken any measures to limit the impact on prisoners, instead it has exploited the pandemic to increase repression of freedoms. Amid the ongoing pandemic, UNHRC High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet opened the 44th session of the Human Rights Council by expressing her concern about the pandemic’s effects on human rights and noting that the epidemic threatens both peace and development and calls for granting more rather than fewer civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

In her statement of 30 June 2020, during the discussion of the report on the work of the HRC and its efforts to assist states, Bachelet said that the pandemic must spur the adoption of strong measures to protect human rights.

Bachelet noted that the data confirm that members of racial minorities and indigenous peoples are the most affected by the pandemic’s economic and social impact. She also pointed out that women and girls are facing increasing exclusion and discrimination, especially given that they bear the greatest burden in caring for children and the elderly, are continuallybarred from decision-making, and sufferfrom increased violence. The statement called on states to prioritize the elderly who represent the largest proportion of the dead.

In regard to prisons, Bachelet affirmed the importance of providing advanced health care and enacting alternatives to detention. She urged states to release imprisoned women and children and called for supporting the rights of foreign detainees. Bachelet’s statement noted that the pandemic has revealed the failure of governments to support human rights: “Without rapid and decisive national and international action, the pandemic will put an end to hopes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

ESOHR affirms the importance of the High Commissioner’s call to support human rights amid the current global crisis. It also stresses that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is among the countries that are using measures to impose greater restrictions on human rights and to carry out more violations.

ESOHR makes clear that Saudi Arabia has not taken any steps to reduce overcrowding in prisons, nor has it chosen to release even detainees of conscience, children, the elderly, or female human rights advocates. Furthermore, reports indicate that a number of male and female prisoners have lost contact with their families at different times, which has exacerbated fears about what they are suffering amid the pandemic.

While previous special rapporteurs and the current High Commissioner have called for blocking any actions to restrict freedom of opinion and expression, ESOHR has observed that Saudi Arabia is invoking Corona measures to prosecute and arrest individuals for expressing their opinions.

With the opening of the HRC’s 44th session, ESOHR emphasizes that Saudi Arabia is carrying out violations and exploiting pandemic measures to further repress freedoms and prosecute individuals. Meanwhile, the government is not seeking to minimize the impact of the pandemic on male and female detainees and their families.

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