Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor

Respecting democracy, rule of law and human rights in the framework of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis․ A toolkit for member states․

April 20, 2020

COVID-19 | Library | Human Rights in the State of Emergency

The purpose of this paper is to provide governments with a toolkit for dealing with the present
unprecedented and massive scale sanitary crisis in a way that respects the fundamental values of
democracy, rule of law and human rights.

It is recognised at the outset that governments are facing formidable challenges in seeking to protect
their populations from the threat of COVID-19. It is also understood that the regular functioning of
society cannot be maintained, particularly in the light of the main protective measure required to
combat the virus, namely confinement. It is moreover accepted that the measures undertaken will
inevitably encroach on rights and freedoms which are an integral and necessary part of a democratic
society governed by the rule of law.

The major social, political and legal challenge facing our member states will be their ability to respond
to this crisis effectively, whilst ensuring that the measures they take do not undermine our genuine
long-term interest in safeguarding Europe’s founding values of democracy, rule of law and human
rights. It is precisely here that the Council of Europe must carry out its core mandate by providing,
through its statutory organs and all its competent bodies and mechanisms, the forum for collectively
ensuring that these measures remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and
be limited in time. The virus is destroying many lives and much else of what is very dear to us. We
should not let it destroy our core values and free societies.

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