The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the number of human rights violations globally, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking on Monday at the opening of the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the interconnected nature of our human family and the full range of human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political, and social. COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing disparities, vulnerabilities, and inequalities and led to new challenges, including in the area of human rights. We see a vicious cycle of violations,” he said.

According to the Secretary-General, the loss of jobs, rising debt, and a sharp drop in income literally turned the lives of hundreds of millions of families upside down. The impact of the pandemic has hit women, minorities, persons with disabilities, the elderly, refugees, migrants, and indigenous peoples the hardest. Teenagers who are unable to attend school and have limited access to technical means have also faced problems. Extreme poverty has begun to rise in the world.

The virus also affects political and civil rights and further narrows the public space. Under the pretext of a pandemic, the authorities of some countries are using security and emergency measures to suppress dissent, declare fundamental freedoms illegal, silence the independent press, and restrict the activities of non – governmental organizations,”

Guterres said.

The Secretary-General recalled that human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, political activists, and even medical professionals are being detained, prosecuted, and intimidated, and monitored for criticizing the government’s response or lack of response to the pandemic. And pandemic-related restrictions are being used to undermine electoral processes, weaken opposition voices, and stifle criticism.