Don’t let human rights become a victim of COVID-19

COVID-19 has wreaked unimaginable damage to even the most robust healthcare systems globally. The meteoric pace of contagion in the absence of a vaccine spells certain destruction, the universally approved and very sensible short-term solution for which is social distancing. 

The virus is an invisible force that spares very little in its path. Unfortunately, this appears to include fundamental principles of democracy globally, of which liberty has always been at the core. In recent weeks, we have witnessed events that, prior to this pandemic, would have been shunned. 

In other jurisdictions, images of video footage being circulated on social media platforms to ridicule those said to be in breach of curfew and authorities storming private residences without warrants are actions that threaten to undermine freedom to all. Further, the unmitigated cyber-bullying experienced by those that express an alternate view serves only to compound the issue. 

Global leaders must share accountability for this crisis and ensure that basic civil liberties are preserved in the process. The means cannot justify the end where, for instance, persons accused of crimes are denied legal representation in police-cautioned interviews on the basis that attorneys are deemed non-essential. 

Perhaps this unforgettable experience will motivate global leaders to prioritise vaccines and healthcare, rather than to build border walls or controversial capital projects. There can be no doubt that we will emerge from this and defeat COVID-19. The only question will be, other than precious lives, what else would we have lost. 

Richard H. Barton 

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