Pandemic hits the poorest because of inequality – Amnesty International

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Foto: Firi Selim

The pandemic has exposed the devastating consequences of the deliberate policies of many governments, which resulted in inequality, discrimination and the suppression of rights and freedoms, according to the annual report of Amnesty International.

Amnesty International Report 2020/21: Human Rights in Today’s World covers 149 countries and comprehensively analyzes global human rights trends in 2020. The shortened Russian version is available at this link; the English version is available at this link.

Health workers, migrant workers, and people in the informal economy – often vital during a pandemic – have been held hostage to the deplorable state of national health systems and unequal economic and social support.

In many countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already precarious situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants: some of them were locked up in overcrowded camps, many were deprived of the opportunity to receive necessities, and some were left to fend for themselves due to tightening border controls.

The people at the forefront of the pandemic – health workers and those employed in the informal economy – have suffered from systematic underfunding of health care and meager social protection measures.

The authorities of a large number of countries have abused the newly introduced rules in order to restrict freedom of expression – as did the governments of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and France.

For example, in Hungary, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban amended the country’s Criminal Code and introduced a penalty of up to five years in prison for “spreading false information” about COVID-19. In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev’s call to “isolate” the opposition and to “cleanse” it in connection with the pandemic led to a whole series of detentions of critics of the government.

Many governments have wreaked havoc on the international stage, stalling collective efforts to rebuild economies and health systems, and torpedoing international cooperation.

* Leaders of rich countries such as then-President Donald Trump, bypassing attempts to establish international cooperation, bought up most of the available vaccines in the world, leaving little to the rest of the countries. These rich countries did not press pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge and technology to increase the volume of COVID-19 vaccines produced globally.

* Xi Jinping’s government censored and harassed Chinese health workers and journalists who tried to raise the alarm about the virus ahead of time, thus preventing critical information from spreading.

* The G20 proposed to suspend the payment of debts by the poorest countries, but insisted on their full repayment later with interest.

“In 2020, it was not those with the power, privileges and high income that demonstrated truly leadership qualities. They were shown by people who came out to demand changes.

Around the world, citizens and human rights defenders have shown examples of leadership, often at the risk of their own safety. They are those who are  at the forefront of the struggle for a better, fairer and more equitable world, Agnes Callamard concluded.


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