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JUSTICIA calls for action against disproportionate COVID-19 criminalisation

Article by Fair Trials

The members of the JUSTICIA European Rights Network, a coalition of leading civil society organisations from across Europe working on promoting the right to a fair trial, issued a statement against the disproportionate use of criminalisation as part of European states’ responses to the coronavirus.

“States have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by extending law enforcement powers and creating new criminal offences.

While a co-ordinated public health response is of course necessary to deal with the crisis, there is widespread evidence of the extensive use of extended law enforcement powers and new criminal offences, resulting in arrests, criminal charges and hefty fines.

We recognise the role of law enforcement in supporting public health officials during these challenging times but there have been many reports of disproportionate and arbitrary law enforcement action, including unlawful arrests, charges and convictions. Normal oversight mechanisms have also been halted.

Urgent action taken in haste in response to the crisis must not burden people with life-long criminal records and with fines they cannot pay during what is a time of extreme hardship for many.

We call on all countries to urgently review all charges, convictions and fines in relation to alleged COVID-19 offences.

We call on all countries to urgently make it possible for fines to be lifted where people cannot pay them without creating financial hardship.

We call on all countries to ensure that any records relating to out of court sanctions for violations of COVID-19 laws are expunged from criminal records and police databases.”

Read the full statement here.

Members of the JUSTICIA European Rights Network are: Open Society Justice Initiative, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Croatian Law Center, Civil Rights Defenders, Res Publica, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Czech League of Human Rights, Statewatch, Human Rights Centre, KISA, Antigone, Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, APADOR, The Peace Institute, Rights International Spain.

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