Human rights are more important than ever in times of crisis

On the Front Line against Human Rights Violations

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Protecting democracy


Safeguard the most vulnerable!

The tally of illness and deaths show that black and ethnic minority people are at risk. At the same time, poverty and exclusion has meant that some groups are not able to protect themselves through social distancing, and others have been unfairly treated. We are insisting that governments act in the face of discrimination, whether it be to national minorities; Roma, migrants and others who face racism, or the LGBTI community, especially LGBTI refugees.

Defend the media, defend free speech!

Propaganda, false news and misinformation abound when a pandemic breaks out, and access to accurate information through a responsible media is more important than ever. Yet over-zealous and opportunistic government control hampers the freedom of journalists to report the facts. Censoring is wrong and has to be stopped

Patrick Penninckx, Head of the Council of Europe Information Society Division, explores what can be done to tackle disinformation whilst defending the right to free speech.

Privacy matters!

Managing crises means authorities can use data in ways that would not normally be accepted, but that doesn’t mean breaking the bonds of privacy. Governments still need to respect rules to keep our data safe and respect human rights principles. 

Alessandra Pierucci, Chair of the Data Protection Committee, explains how we can reconcile data gathering techniques and human rights.

Keep artificial intelligence on our side!

Statisticians and scientists rely on algorithms to provide potentially life-saving data - possibly even tracking infection through personal mobile phones.

But could we be opening the door to human rights abuses? Could people find themselves spied on, stopped from voicing their point of view or denied a fair trial?

Even in a crisis, our use of technology has to be rooted in human rights standards.

Information saves lives!

During a health emergency information really does save lives. Getting the message out about vital health measures in a vast population is no easy task, and authorities need to make sure all parts of the population are targeted - including those who don’t speak the majority language,

Our work with minorities means that communities with different languages always get the essential information they need. It is vital to ensure the rights of minority language speaking populations, especially in times of crisis

Vesna Crnić-Grotić explains why using regional and minority languages is essential.

Be alert to corruption!

With health supplies under pressures the temptation to use illegal methods to secure stocks is high. A rise in corruption is a likely consequence of the virus and of the economic chaos it has caused. Transparency and accountability is the key.

Guard against fakes!

Fake medicine is a trusted source of cash for organised crime. From profiteering as supplies of essential medical equipment run short to selling dubious products to people desperate to protect their health, opportunities spring up for criminals during a pandemic.

We’ve led the way on stopping this dark trade with our Medicrime Convention. It is the best tool In a pandemic to help governments stop the potentially fatal consequences of fakes. 

Gianluca Esposito, Head of the Council of Europe Action against Crime department, explains why we need to confront criminals now. 

Human rights should guide health choices!

For the Council of Europe, human rights should always be the compass to medical decisions, when systems are under extreme pressure and difficult choices have to be made, it is more essential than ever to prioritise ethics .

We’re all in this together!

The Council of Europe's Development Bank plays a special role in supporting European countries to respond to crises. With the launch of a COVID-19 bond, the bank stepped in to help shore up economies under pressure, promote social inclusion projects and protect small and medium sized enterprises.

We’re reaching out to young people too, offering funding through our European Youth Foundation for projects that are aimed at helping the community during COVID-19.

We've also stepped in to help prisons in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia with donations of protective equipment.

Dr. Rolf Wenzel, the Development Bank governor, describes its work in the pandemic.

Head of the European Youth Foundation Marco Leidekker explains why it is vital to support youth work.