What can human rights offer in this moment of crisis?
As a starting point, let’s be humble. Human rights researchers and activists may have some ideas, but we don’t have all the answers, possibly we don’t even have the answers to the most important questions. It is clear that in many countries we have surpassed the threshold of the legitimate restriction of some of our individual rights.
To respond to this pandemic effectively it may be necessary to limit our right to individual liberty, digital privacy, freedom to gather in groups and freedom of movement.
At the same time, however, some will see this crisis as an opportunity to test new policies that would not be palatable in other circumstances. Illiberal rulers are already showing their intentions, and as we move forward, political leaders will be tempted to prolong some of the measures into a new state of being. They will call for the closure of borders, the geolocalization of everyone via mobile apps, and the restriction of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
Human rights defenders should continue doing what they do best and resist governments’ instrumentalization of the pandemic applying a “shock doctrine”, whereby they use the opportunity the crisis presents to further curtail freedoms.