In line with the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Nepal is taking some drastic but necessary measures to ‘flatten the curve’ of infections. The Government sealed borders and imposed a nationwide lockdown on 7 April and responded to the advice of experts to test for the disease by decentralizing testing services and importing medical kits.
While reported numbers of cases of COVID-19 in Nepal are not increasing rapidly at present, the short term and long term impact of the lockdown and sealed borders is being felt most by those already in a vulnerable and disadvantaged position.
We firmly believe that during this unprecedented time our government will adhere to the values enshrined in the Constitution including human rights, civil liberties, fundamental rights, the rule of law and the freedom of press amongst others.
As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nepal demonstrated its uncompromising promotion and protection of the human rights of all. We believe Nepal will direct efforts to curb COVID-19 in line with its obligations under its Constitution and international law.
In these challenging times, we urge the Government to:
- Adhere to its obligations under the Constitution and ensure basic rights with special emphasis on economic, social and cultural rights in particular access to health services, the right to food and the right to information, etc.
- Ensure that alongside measures taken so far, additional protection and relief schemes are implemented for the most vulnerable, including the elderly, people with disabilities, children migrants, daily-wage workers, people in detention, refugees, and those living in temporary settlements in the aftermath of the earthquake.
- Ensure that all State authorities, while enforcing the lockdown abide by the governing principle of legitimacy, necessity, proportionality and reasonableness and abide by the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
- Ensure that citizens’ rights to return home are respected following the precautionary measures and in light of border closures. Also, take the necessary steps to ensure the protection of nationals abroad through bilateral dialogue and cooperation.
- Establish a rights-based approach in dealing with the current crisis. Although COVID-19 is a public health crisis and requires emergency measures, the government must consider its human rights obligations at all times.
- Take immediate measures to implement the recent interim order issued by the Supreme Court of Nepal on right to food and access to medical services in the duration of COVID -19 pandemic.
Finally, we urge Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in Nepal to support the Government’s efforts in all possible ways to deal with this pandemic.
iProbono is a global organisation with a vision to make justice attainable for all and a mission to advance equality and a just society. In Nepal, they work with the legal community to ensure the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights
Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice (LAPSOJ) is an NGO working in the protection of human rights through strategic litigations aimed at policy reform.
Featured photo by Human Rights Watch.