Commission details fourteen recommendations to ensure human rights based approach to COVID-19 Public Inquiry

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has recommended fourteen key steps the Scottish Government should take to ensure that human rights are embedded into how the upcoming COVID-19 Public Inquiry is set up and carried out.

In a detailed submission to the Scottish Government’s Call for Views, the Commission welcomes the stated expectation that the Inquiry take a human rights based approach and makes fourteen detailed recommendations for a human rights based approach to developing the Inquiry Terms of Reference. These include:

  • Establishing a means and process for people most impacted by the pandemic response to engage meaningfully with the Inquiry.
  • Consulting the public on a draft Terms of Reference and the appointment of the Inquiry Chair, panel and assessors.
  • Ensuring the Inquiry assesses the impacts of the pandemic response using a human rights lens and based on people’s experiences.
  • Explicitly setting out the need to address the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic response on different groups of people’s human rights.
  • Making clear that the Inquiry’s overall purpose includes to learn lessons regarding Scotland’s readiness to ensure that rights are properly considered and balanced in challenging situations, and make recommendations accordingly.
  • Explicitly stating that the Inquiry Chair must act in accordance with human rights requirements in making decisions in relation to the conduct and procedure of the Inquiry.
  • When publishing the Terms of Reference, Ministers should give a public commitment to respond in full to all the recommendations made by the Inquiry.

Read the Commission’s full submission. 

Kavita Chetty, Head of Strategy and Legal for the Commission, said:   

“In line with the Scottish Government’s stated commitment to take a human rights based approach to this Inquiry, we expect that human rights will play a crucial role in shaping the way the Inquiry is designed, as well as its ultimate recommendations and outcomes. 

“Taking a human rights based approach involves ensuring those most impacted by the COVID-19 response can participate in all stages of the Inquiry, including setting the Terms of Reference. 

“People’s human rights, including the right to life, have been impacted by almost every measure and decision taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The experiences of people living in care homes, people accessing social care, those in prison, or children unable to attend school or nursery all have human rights implications. Some groups have felt the impact of  the response to COVID-19 acutely and disproportionately. Their views and voices must be heard and listened to. 

“A human rights based approach also means shaping the Inquiry in a way which strengthens accountability and ensures lessons are learned and changes made in terms of how human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

“And it means setting the Inquiry up to examine decisions through the lens of international and domestic human rights laws and standards – a clear, robust framework that can guide us through a complex set of issues.” 

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