The HRI for peace and freedom has defended since its foundation, prisoners of conscience around the world. Countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, or Venezuela are example of the disastrous repercussions authoritarian regimes have against freedom of expression. Systematic repression is the direct response of such regimes to any form of peaceful activism in the pursuit of implementing rule of law and respect to fundamental rights in their respective countries.
But a new scenario imposes new challenges. How are the regimes mentioned reacting to the spread of Covid-19 regarding the repression of conscience?
Two major problems rise with the outgoing epidemic.
- Already imprisoned activists such as Nasrin Sotoude in Iran or Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia are highly exposed to the virus and without medical assurance. But both prisoners are merely the face of many more unjustly arrested.
- Authoritarian regimes are arbitrarily targeting and detaining journalists and doctors gathering and exposing evidence of the pandemic in their respective countries.
Examples of arbitrary detentions without due process:
- Darvinson Rojas in Venezuela for publishing information on Twitter regarding the amount of cases in his country (which the Maduro Regime denies without evidence).
- Fang Bin and Chen Qiushi in China exposing the situation in the province of Wuhan. Both are missing since mid-February of the current year (2020).
Around 250 journalists are detained by regimes of the countries mentioned as of the beginnings of 2020. The degrading situation regarding freedom of expression is a matter which should be addresses by the international community.
The HRI accents the importance of releasing all people unjustly, arbitrary detained, when there is no due process, by matters of freedom of speech and peaceful reunion, especially in Iran, which is currently one of countries with most cases of the virus.
As well, the HRI must denounce the fact that the Iranian authoritarian regime has augmented the sentence for 8 of the most prominent environmentalists arbitrarily detained in 2018 as of first measure when the virus emerged in the country. The environmentalists and many more prisoners of conscience are detained in the Evin prison, which already has several cases of the virus and no medical, sanitary or hygienic supplies due to the overcrowded cells.
Governments have the responsibility to guarantee the right to a standard of living, adequate for the health and well-being as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, governments must assure transparency to its citizens, most important, the civil society has the right to information which is fundamental in critical times.