One of the most noticeable features of the lockdown era was the transformation of the human rights lobby – whose members are never normally timid when expressing their opinions on government policy – into a conspicuously non-barking dog.
From March 2020, human rights activists and advocates became notable only in their absence as the most basic freedoms were essentially set to one side by government decree. Human rights are still, in the popular lexicon, understood to have the purpose of protecting the liberty of the individual against the overweening state. Why, then, did the global human rights constituency – that conglomerate of lawyers, academics, campaigners, activists, experts, and bureaucrats – so signally fail to pay even lip service to that basic purpose?
Answering that question would take a book. It’s certainly something that I intend to dissect at length, here and elsewhere, as the roots of the human rights movement’s capture by the state-friendly managerial left run very deep. A clue, however, lies in the responses of the various National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to the lockdown phenomenon.