UN official slams ‘police violence’ amid global pandemic

May. 31, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A United Nations (UN) official slammed countries like the Philippines where law enforcement has been acting beyond international law in the use of force while implementing quarantine measures.

“We know now from examples from around the world that COVID-19 measures are resulting into increased state of systemic violence at the hands of the police. Law enforcement institutions have too often used the excuse of COVID-19 measures such as curfews and quarantine to engage in excessive use of force,” said Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on Friday, May 29.

Callamard was one of the resource persons in a webinar entitled #NoLockdownOnRights which was organized by the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.

She noted that additional powers by authorities resulted to more violence. “So you can imagine what those additional powers under state of emergencies are doing to their conduct?”

Callamard cited “alarming” reports of people becoming more vulnerable to police violence amid the global pandemic in the last three months. “Those people vulnerable to it are already living often at the margin, and who are structurally vulnerable,” she shared.

She said poor people were forced to go out to make a living; harmless men, women, and children, people living in slums, who live a hand-to-mouth existence, and for whom daily economic activities are essential to daily survival.

On March, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country under a state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis.

But Callamard said measures taken by the governments are often very broad and attribute large powers to the police “without scrutiny and mitigation.”

Right to life

The UN official reminded that “the right to life is non-derogable even in a state of emergency” such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to use platforms to denounce the places of people who are being arrested outside the law, who are being arrested because they need food, they need work,” adding that the people need to denounce the fact that governments failed to mitigate the lockdown, the confinement, and the quarantine measures.

Callamard also noted that the poorest of the poor are already dying disproportionately to the virus because the measures taken by the government are not properly protecting them.

Meanwhile, based on data from the Department of Health, as of May 31, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is at 18,086 with 957 deaths and 3,909 recoveries. (davaotoday.com)

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