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The UK Government has announced a public inquiry into Covid-19. It is vital that the Terms of Reference give scope for a human rights-based approach.

The UK Government has announced a public inquiry to examine the UK’s preparedness and response to the Covid-19 pandemic and learn lessons for the future. The inquiry is really important, and because it was established under the Inquiries Act 2005, the Chair will have the power to compel the production of documents and call witnesses to give evidence on oath.

Earlier this month the draft Terms of Reference (TOR) were published.  A consultation on the TOR runs until 7 April. The TOR will set the parameters for the Inquiry, so we believe it is essential that they give scope for the work to be carried out in a way that respects, protects and fulfils human rights.

We know the pandemic contributed to serious violations of people’s economic, social and cultural rights across all four jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. These rights are provided for in international treaties which the UK has signed up to and agreed to be bound by – including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Our response to the Terms of Reference

We want to make sure the Inquiry:

  • Takes a human rights-based approach to its work
  • Meets its legal duty to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Hears the voices of those who were disproportionately impacted and acknowledges their experiences
  • Gets a clear picture of the disparities of impact of the pandemic and understands the disproportionate impact on those with protected characteristics, and particularly how this intersects with socio-economic status
  • Examines how the UK Government and public authorities failed to protect, respect and fulfil rights, particularly socio-economic rights laid out in international law
  • Uses all this knowledge and experience to make clear human rights-based recommendations to ensure that the UK Government and public authorities do better when responding to emergencies in the future.

We will continue to monitor the compliance of the UK Government with international human rights standards, including through processes such as the Universal Periodic Review and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

If you would like to submit to the current consultation on the Term of Reference for the Inquiry, please check out the dedicated website of the Inquiry for information, or get in touch with our Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns, [email protected].

Image by Jana Dobreva.