Australia: Harsh Police Response During Covid-19

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Statement by Human Rights Watch – Australia

Police Public Order Response Teams respond to a small group of protesters who appeared at a shopping center and quickly dispersed before any arrests could be made during pop-up protests on September 20, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.  © 2020 Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via AP Images.

(Sydney) – Victoria’s police have used harsh measures during the Australian state’s Covid-19 lockdown that threaten basic rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Victoria’s parliament should reject a new attempt to broaden police powers.

Victorian police have engaged in abusive practices during the pandemic that raise concerns about their commitment to upholding human rights. Premier Daniel Andrews said on September 12, 2020, that imposing curfews was about giving law enforcement “the easiest set of rules to enforce.” He asserted that the curfew would remain in place “because it was not about human rights, but rather a matter of human life.” A bill passed by Victoria’s lower house would expand the authority to detain people during the pandemic crisis.

“Rights should be upheld and reinforced during a pandemic, not abandoned,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director. “Several recent incidents raise serious concerns that Victoria’s police are taking excessive or disproportionate action against suspected lockdown violators.”

Read the full statement here.

Have you been stopped by police or had any interaction with police regarding COVID?

This collaborative project aims to document incidents, reports, and examples from members of the public concerning COVID-19 policing, for use in monitoring and reporting, as well as legal advocacy and accountability. It is run by a group of legal and human rights advocacy organisations, backed up by a network of policing academics with a coordinator in each state.
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