It’s been more than two years since the World Health Organization first declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. It hasn’t been easy, but most people have learned since then how to live with COVID-19 as part of our daily backdrop.

But human rights setbacks are a remnant of the pandemic that few people consider – and one that is likely to persist, writes human rights scholar Stephen Bagwell.

Many countries first used the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on human rights in 2020, Bagwell writes. “Declarations of emergency, for example, gave police significant power to crack down on political protests,” he explains.

Some countries continue to use COVID-19 as a reason to squash protests and limit freedom of speech, a trend that is extending well beyond the peak of COVID-19, Bagwell writes. 

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Amy Lieberman

Politics + Society Editor

Human rights declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, in countries from Angola to the US to New Zealand

Stephen Bagwell, University of Missouri-St. Louis

All of the 39 countries human rights experts tracked in 2020 experienced a decline in human rights. It’s not yet clear whether countries will quickly bounce back as the pandemic eases.

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