Our security or our liberty

For years, we, human rights activists, have fought against this dilemma: should we give up our freedom to guarantee our security? Years of fight and experience have taught us that security without liberty and justice is illusory. This year, for the first time in decades and even centuries, we are confronted with a particular challenge that threatens our lives and could threaten our liberties. Here is the new dilemma presented by many autocrats: your health or your freedom?

We were not prepared for it, nobody was… After the first shockwave, which we all managed as best we could, it is important to step back and face this challenge. It is important to think how to answer it without compromising our future. Denying this crisis would be criminal, not only individually but also collectively. Taking refuge in conspiracy theories and listening to those that minimise the pandemic would also be criminal.

At the same time, burying our heads in the sand and believing that authoritarian, autocratic or even some democratic regimes have suddenly become charities is as illusory as the idea that the virus will disappear on its own. It is our duty to remain vigilant, to not be afraid or ashamed to raise our voices where our liberty and our right to a private life are threatened. Fighting the pandemic is a priority but it is a fight that can only be won if our rights are respected. The sick and vulnerable are, above all, human beings with rights and duties.

Implementing restrictive and coercive measures to stop the spread of the virus should not be done arbitrarily and used as a way to further oppress citizens, as is currently witnessed in several countries of the Euro-Mediterranean region. The pandemic was unforeseeable, but our response must be transparent and clear. We will only win this fight if we all do our duty, and only the guarantee of an absolute respect for our rights can render victory possible.

Wadih Al-Asmar

President of EuroMed Rights