Commission welcomes COVID Public Inquiry announcement

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that work is now underway to establish a public inquiry to investigate the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland.

The Commission particularly welcomes the following commitment from the Scottish Government:

  • Scottish Ministers expect a person-centred, human rights based approach to ensure that every person and organisation taking part can meaningfully participate, be treated fairly and be empowered to take part in the inquiry.  In reporting, Ministers expect the inquiry to demonstrate that this approach has informed its recommendations.

Kavita Chetty, Head of Strategy and Legal at the Scottish Human Rights Commission, briefed MSPs last week on why human rights need to be embedded into the inquiry from the outset. She comments:

“As we start to look back on decisions made, it is important to understand both why and how people’s human rights were impacted. A public inquiry can shine a light on systemic issues and failures, in turn allowing for accountability and lessons to be learned as we move into recovery.

“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. While the whole population experienced unprecedented restrictions on their personal freedoms, we already know that some groups have felt the impact acutely and disproportionately.

“The Commission welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to take a human rights based approach to this public inquiry. This will enable all of us 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.

“A human rights based approach will also mean ensuring those most affected by the pandemic are fully engaged in developing both the process and the outcome of the Inquiry and embedding human rights into the work taking place to develop and specify Terms of Reference, accountability mechanisms, participation processes and communication methods.”