In addition, a number of these facilities did not enjoy the minimum infection prevention and control measures, nor the means to ensure adequate food, water and medical care. It is clear that such a situation offers the perfect recipe for promoting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in addition to being in violation of the right to health.
Unfortunately, the member states of the OAS have preferred to ignore and disregard their shared obligation to guarantee human rights without distinction across the continent. Faced with this situation, there was a resounding silence from this General Assembly, despite the main theme being to reflect on the challenges COVID-19 presents for our continent.
While an omnibus resolution was adopted on human rights within which a resolution entitled “Protecting human rights in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic” was passed, this merely highlighted the need to preserve a rights-based approach to the pandemic. Nowhere did it call for condemnation of the repressive measures taken in the context of the pandemic or for assurances that any such repetition would be avoided.
Human rights protection requires more than mere declarations such as those seen since the beginning of the pandemic within the OAS. Guaranteeing human rights necessarily requires action, condemnations of violations, and reparation, above all to avoid any repetition, particularly since the continent does not seem to be gaining any respite from the pandemic. The OAS and its member states clearly owe a debt to those of us living on the continent at this time.
The repressive measures implemented to combat the pandemic must never again be contemplated. This is why the international community and its highest regional body in the Americas must not only be vigilant but must also use all resources at their disposal to ensure that human rights violations are never again committed under the pretext of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic on our continent.
It is in this spirit that we at Amnesty International will continue to use the mechanisms set out in the OAS’s own standards to ensure that this concert of nations not only analyses what happened but also establishes mechanisms and road maps to prevent such a situation from occurring again.
Faced with the inaction of this multilateral forum, those of us working for human rights have no choice but to continue to seek out relevant spaces, make our concerns known and monitor as appropriate.
This is nothing new for Amnesty International. It is just one tool which, alongside research, campaigning and mobilization actions, we use to support many of our demands that human rights be respected and guaranteed. In the coming days, we will therefore be sending a further letter to the OAS asking it to address the repressive measures implemented in the face of the pandemic.