Press Release

IACHR Adopts Resolution 4/20 Establishing Inter-American Guidelines on Human Rights of People with COVID-19

July 27, 2020

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Resolution No. 04/20, “The Human Rights of People with COVID-19.”

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Washington, D.C. -The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today adopted Resolution No. 04/20, “The Human Rights of People with COVID-19.” The resolution, which sets out the inter-American guidelines on the human rights of people with COVID-19, was drafted by the Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit on the COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis (SACROI COVID-19).

The IACHR noted that, since the beginning of the global health emergency, efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and disease in the Americas have been affected by conditions that predated the pandemic, including discrimination, poverty, inequality, the structural weakness of public health systems, and, in many cases, a lack of political and institutional stability. As a result, the people of the Americas have been severely impacted by the pandemic. People with COVID-19 are at particular risk of being deprived of their human rights, especially their right to life and healthcare through appropriate access to medical facilities, supplies, and services.

In Resolution 04/20, “people with COVID-19” includes people who are thought to have been infected by the virus, people who are in both the presymptomatic and symptomatic phases (be they mild, moderate, severe, or critical cases), as well as those who are asymptomatic, those undergoing medical research tests, and those who have been killed by the pandemic, as well as their families and/or caregivers.

The guidelines set out in Resolution 04/20 establish that states should comply with their obligations to respect and guarantee the human rights of people with COVID-19 and should take an intersectional, multidisciplinary approach that recognizes and affirms human dignity, eliminates all forms of discrimination, and acknowledges the indivisibility and interdependence of such rights in their regulations, policies, and decision-making processes, as well as within all public institutions.

Likewise, the guides contain a set of guidelines for implementing actions to protect the right to health of people with COVID-19, including information regarding the rights to consent when receiving healthcare, equality and nondiscrimination, privacy and data usage, access to information, the protection of other economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, and access to justice. The resolution also recommends prioritizing the right to life of people with COVID-19 within public policies and in the provision of resources and cooperation, protecting their rights vis-à-vis the actions of other individuals, protecting the rights of healthcare workers, and guaranteeing the rights of family members of people killed by COVID-19, including the right to mourn the deceased.

This resolution represents the IACHR’s comprehensive approach to the human rights of people with COVID-19. It takes into account the standards of the Inter-American System of Human Rights and establishes the Inter-American Guidelines for the Protection of the Human Rights of People with COVID-19. The IACHR has issued these guidelines with support from the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (OSESCER) and expert contributions from the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (OSRFE), in its role as the principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), with a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region, and in exercise of Article 106 of the OAS Charter, Article 41.b of the American Convention on Human Rights, and Article 18.b of its Statute.

“The health crisis we are battling has drawn attention to the particular risk to which people with COVID-19 are exposed. We must protect the right to life and health from the perspective of the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights. Through these new guidelines, the IACHR is continuing to develop international human rights law to protect people who are experiencing increased vulnerability,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández, the president of the IACHR.

“This resolution is an innovative document within the Inter-American System that puts the rights to health and care at the core of states’ responses during the pandemic. It also emphasizes the need to address this crisis from the perspective of the indivisibility of human rights," said Special Rapporteur Soledad García Muñoz. “The OSRESCER and the IACHR intend this text to be a useful guide for states, state authorities, and government officials, while also setting out inter-American standards on this matter, to ensure that a human rights approach is applied throughout all decision-making processes,” she concluded.

The Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, emphasized that “this document is a continuation of the essential contribution that the IACHR is making to states and civil society through SACROI COVID-19 to defend human rights in the Americas during the pandemic.”

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 180/20