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IBJ STATEMENT ON ACCESS TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND STATE RESPONSES TO COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health emergency in need of a sustained national and global response. As an advocate for defending the rights of arrested, detained and accused persons in more than 100 countries, International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) joins the rest of the world in the global fight against COVID-19.
IBJ strongly supports the COVID-19 guidelines and directives issued by the United Nations and its specialized agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR).
These organizations call on governments to follow key recommendations relating to policing, border controls, immigration enforcement and isolation procedures for individuals possibly infected by COVID-19. They also advise governments to focus on reducing the congestion of prisons and places of detention as well as taking precautionary health and hygiene measures. These recommendations parallel IBJ’s own work in the field. IBJ stands ready to assist through its more than 20 years of experience and expertise.
Extraordinary national measures aimed at mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic should not be a justification for derogation from a state’s duty to respect and protect human rights. IBJ, in conjunction with its in-country affiliates and JusticeMakers Fellows worldwide, is prepared to assist with the implementation of the international recommendations and guidelines which are relevant to combatting COVID-19. These include:
- WHO Guidelines: Preparedness, Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention. WHO guidelines represent an international consensus on procedures to be followed in countries facing health epidemics.
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recommends governments to ensure that, “Lockdowns, quarantines and other such measures to contain and combat the spread of COVID-19 [are] carried out in strict accordance with human rights standards and in a way that is necessary and proportionate to the evaluated risk.”
- Advice of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to States Parties and National Preventive Mechanisms relating to the Coronavirus Pandemic recommends that “State authorities take full account of all the rights of persons and their families and detention and health care staff when taking measures to combat the pandemic.”
- United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).
Since 2000, IBJ legal defenders have collaborated with governmental justice sector officials in many countries to encourage nuanced policing, safer and more limited use of pre-trial detention and achieving better justice outcomes through system-wide adoption of fair trial standards. In a spirit of collaboration and deference to local expertise, IBJ stands committed to its’ mission of protecting due process rights and supporting our partners in governmental institutions as they endeavor to address the major challenges of combatting COVID-19.