RECOGNIZING HUMAN RIGHTS DAY AMIDST A PANDEMIC

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By Juliet O. Nyangái   

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10th December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is purported that the UDHR is available in more than 500 languages making it the most translated document in the world

The United Nations website states that the UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or another status.

Every year there is a different theme in celebrating this great day and this year is no different. This year’s Human Rights Day theme, ‘’Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights’’  relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.

The theme is just spot-on as the violation of human rights has been widespread and acutely upraised during this pandemic season.  This has been a global trend as more than 80 countries including the United States closed their borders and declared a state of emergency. As a result of the same, there was restricted access to some areas, restricted movement, and a shut- down of businesses.

Even as truly, a crisis of this magnanimity called for such measures, other governments became wanton in the heralding of human rights and took advantage to consolidate political power, stifle dissent and opposition. In specific countries across the world, there have been allegations of restricting information regards the pandemic, repressing the opposition and political criticism, and also in inculcation of authoritarian behavior which is an infringement of international human rights.

In authoritarian states, democratic structures are disregarded and the constitution undermined. In Kenya, critics say that the present regime is using the pandemic to undermine the Constitution. From, political gatherings and rallies whereas there has been a restriction of the same, pushing of political agendas that undermine the Constitution to police brutality.

Kenya’s neighbors have also been accused of the same with two of the countries accused of committing human rights atrocities. In Tanzania, the General Election was held on 28th October 2020 to elect the President and the National Assembly and there are widespread accusations that the same were marred across the country by government repression of opposition politicians and violence against dissent including media censorship and intimidation, restricted access to media and criminalization of libel.

The same script is allegedly being replayed currently in Uganda. Uganda is to have National Elections in January 2020 and the incumbent’s number 1 contender, Robert Kyagulanyi more popularly knows as Bobi Wine has claimed that the authorities are using the Covid-19 regulations as a pretext to clamp down dissent and violate human rights. There have been reports of an excessive police force and brutality, arbitrary detention, restriction to freedom of expression and association.

It is unfortunate that human rights violations have heightened amidst a global crisis. Perhaps being more informed of the impact of human rights violations can make us have more respect and tolerance for the difference plus make the citizenry demand for better governance and accountability from the leadership, because only then can we fully cherish and esteem human rights. Happy Human Rights Day 2020.

The author is an Advocate of the High Court, Principal Partner at Juliet Nyangai, and Company Advocates.

Ms. J.O Nyangái may be reached on Twitter: @nyangaij Email: nyangaij@gmail.com

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