The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia allows restrictions on certain human rights (such as freedom of movement) when public health is endangered and the state decides to manage the epidemic through formal restrictions on human rights, with severe and expeditious sanctioning for violating regulations.
Human rights restrictions culminated during the state of emergency that was introduced on March 15th, 2020 and lasted until May 6th, 2020. During the state of emergency, regulations affecting human rights, were changed on daily basis, as the authority that needed to adopt them had passed from the National Assembly to the executive.
The pandemic, as a global phenomenon, activated international human rights organizations taking into account that human rights restrictions, due to public health needs, represent a global challenge. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the United Nations has timely issued to Member States instructions on how to manage the epidemic, while respecting international human rights standards. This organization continuously monitored the practice of states in regard to respecting human rights during a pandemic. Since there is no practice on how to manage in this type of unexpected challenging situations, and since each country determined its own path in the fight against the pandemic, the UN, following comparative practice, warned of negative phenomena and pointed out examples of good practice.
“Human Rights and COVID-19” presents an analysis of changes in the legal framework during the COVID-19 epidemic and their impact on exercising human rights. Starting from the principle of the rule of law, the analysis shows the decision making manner which limits human rights, control of the consequences of new regulations in practice, with a systematic presentation of the rights that have suffered the most formal restrictions (freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, right to fair trial, right to health care and freedom of expression). The analysis also shows the limitations of other rights, such as freedom of religion and the right to personal and family life, which have arisen as an indirect consequence of the undertaken measures. There are also presented the problems which mentioned measures and restrictions created to vulnerable groups, the initiatives and proposals submitted to the state bodies in order to solve or mitigate the observed problems, as well as state’s response to the initiatives.
The analysis shows the compliance of human rights restrictions with the appeals of the United Nations bodies and the instructions which this organization had been giving during the pandemic.