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Policing COVID-19

In response to the threat of COVID-19 to public health, countries around the world have dramatically increased police powers, implemented new criminal laws and established widespread digital surveillance regimes. Many of these new emergency powers and laws have been rushed in with little or no democratic scrutiny, have no time limit, and may continue to be in force long after COVID-19 ceases to be a serious threat to public health.

Read our updates and commentary pieces about extended police powers.

This new – and often vaguely defined – authority has resulted in excessive policing and widespread criminalisation, with unlawful arrests, prosecutions and convictions for alleged COVID-19 related offences. Law enforcement have also given out millions of fines and other out of court disposals, which have forced many people into severe hardship in already very challenging financial circumstances. In light of these events, Fair Trials and the Europe-wide network of civil society organisations JUSTICIA have issued a statement against the disproportionate use of criminalisation and called for the review of all charges, convictions and fines in relation to alleged COVID-19 offences.

Read our updates and commentary pieces about new criminal offences.

States have also hurriedly implemented widespread surveillance initiatives, such as ‘contact-tracing’ apps which track people’s movements, location and contact with others, or other mobile phone tracking. In many countries, these have been brought in without sufficient transparency, effective safeguards against abuse or remedies. This information could be used in relation to new COVID-19 criminal offences, and potentially in other criminal investigations or proceedings.

Read our updates and commentary pieces about surveillance.

The misuse and abuse of these new extended powers and new criminal offences, alongside opaque and unaccountable surveillance measures, undermine the rule of law and fairness in the criminal justice system. Many of these powers are excessive, unnecessary and disproportionate, and may infringe the right to a fair trial.

Read our updates and commentary pieces about the rule of law.

Keep up to date

COVID-19 Justice Project Newsletter

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