Civil Rights before and after Covid19

Here at Espai Societat Oberta we continue with our cycle of online debates on human rights in the context of the pandemic. Our first debate was focused on digital rights and the pandemic. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, you can also read our written summary of the conversation.

The second debate focused on the issue of citizenship rights during the pandemic. We wanted to address the issues that we are currently facing, such as freedom of movement, the right to information, repression and exceptional decision-making. The central question was how civil rights are protected both during and after the state of emergency.

To offer valuable insight on the issues, we were joined by Violeta Assiego (lawyer and social researcher and expert in gender and discrimination) and Elisa de la Nuez (State lawyer and secretary general of the Hay Derecho Foundation). The debate was once again moderated by Stéphane M. Grueso (journalist, filmmaker and social activist).

Rights before the pandemic

What were our rights like before the pandemic? 

Violeta Assiego reflected that “Civil rights are not enjoyed equally by all people. There are groups that cannot be unionized, that cannot demonstrate, that cannot be registered…” In fact, rights were already unequal before the pandemic, and in the State of Alarm they remain so: “Without equality these rights are biased”.

Elisa de la Nuez was perturbed by “the regime of sanctions and infractions. It is going much further than the State of Alarm decree would allow”. It is along these lines de la Nuez regrets that a “broad interpretation of the idea of protecting the population” is being made.

Sanctions and solidarity

In this section of the debate, both focused on the increased incursion of the police and state into everyday life that the declaration and its consecutive extensions have caused: “The application of the law on citizen security (Gag Law) is being accepted to the point that we are believing that we must pursue insolidarity. You can’t criminalize anyone who takes to the streets without knowing what their circumstances are,” Assiego said.

“The offences we are seeing during the State of Alert, such as going out into the street, are not criminalized anywhere. What we have is a law where disobedience to police forces is criminalized,” added de la Nuez. In this sense, de la Nuez stated that the threats of sanctions and excessive fines also work as a form of deterrence. “As a citizen, have we been content with this situation?” she asked.

Post-Covid19 Freedoms and Rights

“There are a number of fundamental rights that cannot be violated, nor can we allow more surveillance in order to control an outbreak like Covid,19″ said Assiego. The lawyer and social investigator warned of the dangers of permanently implementing the measures of the State of Alert, once the immediate emergency has passed. Assiego stated that the law on citizen security is “disproportionate to the standards of human rights set by the United Nations”.

Elisa de la Nuez emphasized the right to information: “Administrative silence is a constant in the State of Alarm as before. It is a worrying drift because freedom of information is more necessary than ever”. Assiego stated that “we must have access to information and make it understandable. Information guarantees must be ensured”.

On our YouTube channel you can watch the full debate in Spanish, as well as videos of previous debates and events that have taken place in Espai over the last two years. Our series of debates on life after the pandemic will continue at Espai Societat Oberta. The next is on Wednesday 13 May and will focus on Digital divides and equitable education.

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