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Human Rights in the Times of a Pandemic. 10 months, 10 rights, 10 restrictions, 10 recommendations for the future…

In March 2020, the World Health Organisation announced that the coronavirus epidemic reached the level of a global pandemic. In Poland, the state of pandemic emergency was initially introduced1, and a week later, the state of pandemic was declared.

The last ten months have been a time of concern for the health of ourselves and our loved ones. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way states and societies function. It has also created further human rights challenges, including specifically the right to life and health, to personal liberty, to a court, the right to education, the prohibition of discrimination, freedom of speech or the freedom to conduct a business. The pandemic has particularly affected the elderly, the homeless, persons in detention or need of specialist support.
Also, it happened during a special period in Poland and coincided with events that aroused great emotions in society – presidential elections and numerous protests.

This report is an attempt to answer the question whether, under the pretext of combating the epidemic, the Polish authorities have not unduly restricted civil rights and freedoms and whether the legislator’s interference has always met the proportionality test set out in the Constitution. This report presents the introduced restrictions in the context of ten human rights, offering documentation of potential violations committed by the state.

The report is also an attempt to formulate recommendations for the future, which we hope will guide public authorities in the coming months of the fight against the pandemic. Moreover, it is also a first step towards assessing the long-term impact of the pandemic on our rights and freedoms. Undoubtedly, only in the long-term will we be able to assess its impact on human rights, both in the legislative (theoretical) and social (practical) dimension. The question remains open as to whether the rights and freedoms given up for noble
reasons have not already been lost forever.

 

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