United Nations warns of ‘excessive force’ in Covid-19 response

The United Nations Human Rights Office has warned countries against using excessive force during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The agency urged governments to “recognize that the threat is a virus, not people”.

South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are among countries where security forces have used repressive measures to enforce restrictions to movement.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said countries should not use emergency powers as a weapon to quash dissent and control the population.

She said shooting, detaining or abusing people for breaking curfew because they are desperately searching for food is unacceptable and unlawful.

The UN body she heads said more than 17,000 South Africans have been arrested as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

In Kenya, 27 human rights organisations have written an open letter to the government demanding that it stops punishing curfew offenders by forcefully sending them into quarantine centres.

About 32,100 coronavirus cases have been reported in 52 African countries, with 1,428 deaths and 9,741 recoveries.