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HRC to review emergency restrictions

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Emergency restrictions imposed for the Covid-19 crisis are appropriate in the circumstances, the Human Rights Commission said yesterday.

An HRC statement said that the Constitution allowed the Governor, after consultation with the Premier, to proclaim a state of emergency for up to 14 days.

It added: “During that time, regulations or Acts of Parliament may be lawfully passed which would otherwise infringe rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution.

“Section 14 also requires that the Legislature and Senate convene during the state of emergency, at which time, they may authorise an extension of the state of emergency by up to three months.”

The commission said that it “recognises that the actions taken to date have been necessary to slow the spread of Covid-19” and that it would continue to issue regular statements to keep the community “vigilant and aware of human rights considerations”.

The HRC added that the shelter-in-place rules were an “extraordinary exercise of the Governor's power” that had stopped freedom of movement and assembly guaranteed by the Bermuda Constitution.

The HRC said: “For that reason, and moving forwards, the commission urges the Government to only act in a manner that is strictly necessary in the face of the pandemic, and which minimally impairs the constitutional and human rights of all Bermuda's residents for the duration of the emergency.”

The commission will review regulations and Covid-19 legislation in the next few weeks.

It said they should “continue to be in alignment with human rights principles”.

John Rankin, the Governor, invoked section 14(3) of the Constitution on April 1 to impose a state of emergency on the island.

The proclamation also summoned both Houses of Parliament to meet at 10am on Monday.

The HRC said that Mr Rankin had passed the Emergency Powers (Covid-19 Shelter in Place) Regulations 2020 last Friday, under the Emergency Powers Act 1963.

The restrictions, which came into force last Saturday, ordered people to stay at their homes for at least 23 hours a day.

The only exceptions for non-exempted people were trips to buy food and medicine, attend medical appointments, assist an elderly relative and engage in a limited period of walking or running for exercise.

The regulations will end at 6am on April 18 unless an extension is ordered.

The statement added: “Pursuant to Section 14 of the Human Rights Act 1981, the commission has a duty to encourage an understanding of the fundamental rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution.

“Accordingly, the commission will include constitutional considerations in its Covid-19 statements, where it deems this to be appropriate for the fulfilment of this statutory duty.

“The commission stands ready to provide guidance and to work with the Government, industry associations, businesses and individuals in accordance with our statutory mandate.”

To read the HRC statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”.

Enforcing curfew: Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers on North Shore (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Human Rights Commission logo (Image from government website)

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Published April 09, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 09, 2020 at 9:01 am)

HRC to review emergency restrictions

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