Mr President, international human rights law guarantees everyone the right to the highest attainable standard of health and obligates governments to take steps to prevent threats to public health. Human rights law also recognises that in the context of serious public health threats and public emergencies threatening the life of the nation (like the Covid-19 pandemic), restrictions on some rights can be justified when they have legal basis, are strictly necessary. This must be based on scientific evidence and shouldn’t be applied arbitrarily with respect for human dignity. The scale of severity of the Covid-19 pandemic is a public health threat hence the cooperation and collaboration government is enjoying from the public and the opposition parties
Mr President, amidst the din of the Covid-19 pandemic that engulfs all of us, government and our laws cannot remain silent on the atrocities being meted out to innocent Ghanaians under the guise of monitoring the lockdown order. Government must immediately allay the fear amongst the citizenry as regard infringement of their rights. The implementation of the lockdown must be under the watchful eyes of government especially, the defence and interior ministers and security heads
Several instances of security personnel assaulting people out on streets have emerged from Greater Kumasi, Kasoa and Accra since the lockdown order came into force. Videos emerging from the places mentioned show the security personnel assaulting people unreasonably. They were seen beating people, who were out to buy food or going to buy essential goods, while enforcing lockdown in these areas.
Mr President, citizens will venture out risking themselves as well as others which must be condemned and stopped, but security personnel lathi charging and hurling abuses to even those buying or selling essentials goods will only make things worse in coming weeks. The lack of prompt, firm action from the security heads and government is damaging to the image of the security agencies among the population and will be detrimental to the good elements who are doing their work diligently during this crisis.
A public health emergency is not an opportunity to terrorise innocent citizens, bypass rule of law, and public accountability. Continuing use of repressive tactics, unlawful and arbitrary procedures will only add to the panic, fear, and anxiety caused by Covid-19. Measures must be taken by government to protect people’s human right as we observe the lockdown order and not further weaken them.
Most shockingly, some of the security personnel are misinterpreting the President’s directives either deliberately, or due to lack of understanding of the whole project.
Mr President, international human rights law requires states to ensure all individuals deprived of their liberties are informed, in a language they understand. That is why we’ve been advocating for adequate communication and information dissemination to enable citizens in the locked down areas understand the order and all the inherent directives. Building trust with the citizenry is essential in fighting an unprecedented pandemic. While government imposes restrictions, it must prioritize human rights and refrain from abusing its powers. Government must not allow the extraordinary circumstances and restrictions measures against Covid-19 to lead to the violation of our rights.
Source: Ohenenana Obonti Krow