Bunia: The United Nations Mission has organized an awareness-raising session on respect for human rights for the actors involved in the fight against Covid-19
Several cases of human rights violations have been reported in Ituri since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic-related health crisis. As part of the protection of the individual freedoms, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office of MONUSCO in Bunia has been holding since Wednesday, July 22, 2020 a three-day workshop to popularize the guiding principles of human rights in this respect.
Politico-administrative, security, judicial and health officials as well as representatives of the local media and civil society in Ituri are among those taking part in this sensitization.
According to the United Nations Join Human Rights Office of MONUSCO in Bunia, "the sensitizations aim to draw the attention of all those working in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic to the need to respect human rights, especially since it is in this context that the civil and political rights as well as the economic, social and cultural rights are essential to guarantee the success of both the emergency measures taken by the governments and the public health measures".
The first day of the awareness session brought together twenty-two political, administrative and security authorities, including two women. This activity has been organized in partnership with the human rights NGOs Justice-Plus, Forum des Mamans de l'Ituri/Forum for Women in Ituri (FOMI) and Synergie pour l'Autonomisation de la Femme/Synergy for Women’s Empowerment (SAF).
According to Bienvenu Ukech of the NGO Justice Plus, the most common cases of human rights violations in Ituri during this period of the health crisis, inter alia, include: the victimization and stigmatization of the people affected by Covid-19, further indicating that this leads to trauma and a loss of the self-esteem by the victims who feel marginalized and compelled to live in isolation in their homes.
Another form of human rights violation during this period is "the publication in social networks of names of patients affected by Covid-19 allegedly by some health officials". This constitutes a "serious attack on human dignity punishable by the Congolese law," noted Xavier Maki, head of the NGO Justice Plus. “We all know when a person tests positive for Coronavirus, everyone starts running away from them. We must avoid modelling the Coronavirus on a given group. Although states are called upon to make tough decisions to protect citizens, those decisions should not be used as a pretext to violate other rights."
To avoid such practices participants were entitled to a presentation on the Guiding Principles of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Covid-19. This sparked a lengthy debate supported by the authorities themselves, stigmatizing the responsibility of Governments which, in application of the international law, enact emergency measures and public health measures without releasing the means likely to guarantee compliance with the human rights in all its facets. During the same debate, participants criticised some governments’ attitudes in relying only on solidarity and international cooperation to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
The participants welcomed MONUSCO’s initiative aimed at promoting human rights in Ituri. "This is a good opportunity for us living in Ituri where the provincial government has been struggling to making the fight against this pandemic a major concern, while respecting human rights", declared Etienne Unega Ege, chief of staff of the Governor of the Ituri Province.