GENEVA (26 March 2020) – The COVID-19 crisis cannot be solved with public health and emergency measures only; all other human rights must be addressed too, UN human rights experts* said today.

“Everyone, without exception, has the right to life-saving interventions and this responsibility lies with the government. The scarcity of resources or the use of public or private insurance schemes should never be a justification to discriminate against certain groups of patients,” the experts said. “Everybody has the right to health.

“People with disabilities, older persons, minority communities, indigenous peoples, internally displaced people, people affected by extreme poverty and living in overcrowded settings, people who live in residential institutions, people in detention, homeless people, migrants and refugees, people who use drugs, LGBT and gender diverse persons – these and other groups need to receive support from governments.

“Advances in biomedical sciences are very important to realize the right to health. But equally important are all human rights. The principles of non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability need to be applied to all health-related policies.”

The UN experts supported the measures recommended by the WHO to defeat the pandemic. They called on States to act with determination to provide the needed resources to all sectors of public health systems – from prevention and detection to treatment and recovery.

“But addressing this crisis is more than that. States must take additional social protection measures so that their support reaches those who are at most risk of being disproportionately affected by the crisis,” they stressed.

“That includes women, who are already at a disadvantaged socio-economic position, bear an even heavier care burden, and live with a heightened risk of gender-based violence.”

The group of experts expressed their gratitude and admiration to health workers around the world who heroically battle the outbreak. “They face huge workloads, risk their own lives and are forced to face painful ethical dilemmas when resources are too scarce. Healthcare workers need to have all possible support from States, business, media and the public at large.

“COVID-19 is a serious global challenge,” the experts said. “But it is also a wake-up call for the revitalization of universal human rights principles. These principles and trust in scientific knowledge must prevail over the spread of fake news, prejudice, discrimination, inequalities and violence.

“We all together face this unprecedented challenge. The business sector in particular continues to have human rights responsibilities in this crisis. Only with concerted multilateral efforts, solidarity and mutual trust, will we defeat the pandemic while becoming more resilient, mature and united.

“When the vaccine for COVID-19 comes, it should be provided without discrimination. Meanwhile, as it is still to come, the human rights-based approach is already known as another effective pathway in the prevention of major public health threats,” the experts concluded.


(*) The experts: Dainius PūrasSpecial Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental healthDubravka ŠimonovićSpecial Rapporteur on violence against womenAhmed ShaheedSpecial Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Victor Madrigal-BorlozIndependent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identityJavaid RehmanSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of IranRosa Kornfeld-MatteIndependent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older personsLéo HellerSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitationFabian SalvioliSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrenceAlioune TineIndependent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in MaliFernand de VarennesSpecial Rapporteur on minority issuesObiora OkaforIndependent Expert on human rights and international solidarityAristide Nononsi,Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in SudanDavid R. BoydSpecial Rapporteur on human rights and the environmentUrmila BhoolaSpecial Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slaveryAhmed Reid (Chair), Dominique Day, Michal  Balcerzak, Ricardo A. Sunga III, and Sabelo GumedzeWorking Group of experts on people of African descentSaad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to developmentVictoria Tauli CorpuzSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoplesLivingstone SewanyananIndependent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Catalina Devandas AguilarSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilitiesYanghee LeeSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Elizabeth Broderick (Vice Chair), Alda Facio, Ms. Ivana Radačić, Meskerem Geset Techane (Chair), Melissa UpretiWorking Group on discrimination against women and girlsYao AgbetseIndependent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in the Central African RepublicS. Michael LynktheSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967Alice CruzSpecial Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family membersNils MelzerSpecial Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentDavid R. Boyd,Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environmentRhona SmithSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in CambodiaIkponwosa EroIndependent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism; Daniela KravetzSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in EritreaDavid KayeSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expressionAnais Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Githu Muigai (Chair), Anita Ramasastry (Vice-chair), Dante Pesce, Elzbieta Karska, and Surya DevaWorking Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprisesClément VouleSpecial Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and associationFionnuala D. Ní AoláinSpecial Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Michel ForstSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defendersCecilia Jimenez-DamarySpecial rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced personsJosé Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Chair), Leigh Toomey (Vice-Chair on Communications), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair on Follow-up), Seong-Phil Hong and Sètondji AdjoviWorking Group on Arbitrary DetentionDiego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and LawyersLuciano A. Hazan (Chair), Tae-Ung Baik (Vice-chair), Houria Es-Slami, Henrikas Mickevičius, Bernard Duhaime, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary DisappearancesE. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intoleranceKarima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rightsBahame Nyanduga, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia; and Maud de Boer-Buquicchio Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children.

No exceptions with COVID-19: “Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions” – UN experts say