Article originally published on Council of Europe website, 8 April 2020 – accessible here

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Information Document was sent to all 47 Council of Europe member states yesterday.

“The virus is destroying many lives and much else of what is very dear to us. We should not let it destroy our core values and free societies,” said the Secretary General.

“The major social, political and legal challenge facing our member states will be their ability to respond to this crisis effectively, whilst ensuring that the measures they take do not undermine our genuine long-term interest in safeguarding Europe’s founding values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” she added.

The toolkit is designed to help ensure that measures taken by member states during the current crisis remain proportional to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time.

The document covers four key areas:

  • Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights in times of emergency
  • Respect for the rule of law and democratic principles in times of emergency, including limits on the scope and duration of emergency measures
  • Fundamental human rights standards including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination and the right to education
  • Protection from crime and the protection of victims of crime, in particular regarding gender-based violence.

The Information Document also refers to new advice from the Committee of the Parties of the Council of Europe’s MEDICRIME Convention on the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes.