In a news article published by The New York Times (NYT) last December 17, 2020, details an ombudsman report which condemns the rushed lockdown of public housing towers in Melbourne in July 2020, which left 3,000 residents without adequate goods, water, medication, and access to fresh air. The report, released on the same day as the NYT article said, “the lockdown was not compatible with residents’ human rights, including their right to human treatment when deprived of liberty”. The report adds, “we may be tempted, during a crisis, to view human rights as expendable in the pursuit of saving human lives…This thinking can lead to dangerous territory”.
The ombudsman recommended that the government apologize publicly to the tower residents and reminded government officials of the cost of such measures.
To date, the Australian government has not issued a public apology and it continues to insist that its decision is lawful and within the country’s legal framework. Richard Wynne, the minister for planning and housing said, “We make no apologies for saving lives”.
A full copy of the 252-page report may be accessed here.
Editor’s Note: Though the ombudsman report is focused on the experience of residents in Melbourne, it is a reminder to the rest of the world that human rights are still of greatest value in a society that strives for equality and justice.
Governments must remember that their foremost duty to their citizens is to uphold and protect their human rights and dignity – those set of rights and values which has placed our modern societies apart from the Dark Ages.
We must remember that all the atrocities of history happened because people failed to acknowledge that every human being has a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Are we about to squander the greatest achievement of our civilization just because we are afraid of dying? To make matters worse, SARS-CoV-2 is not even the deadly virus the media portrays it to be [Majority of those who contract the virus experience only mild symptoms, and of those who do develop symptoms, many recover. To learn about the health impacts of COVID-19, see the article category Is It Really That Deadly?]
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