Ombudsman report on Covid-19 before Parliament


Samoa Office of the Ombudsman National Human Rights Institution’s (NHRI Samoa) eighth State of Human Rights Report 2022 (the Report) on COVID-19 and Human Rights has been submitted to Parliament. 

Ombudsperson, Luamanuvao Katalaina Sapolu says that it has been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic and its human rights implications have proven catastrophic. 

“Families lost loved ones, businesses suffered, unemployment rates increased, and freedom of movement was restricted. 

There has also been a grave impact on children’s right to education, and the right to health continues to be challenged with resources stretched to the maximum. 

However, human rights principles continue to play an important role in addressing discrimination and inequality and providing inclusion of everyone in the prevention of, and recovery from, COVID-19.” 

The report provides an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 and government measures on the rights and freedoms of Samoans, especially on the most vulnerable groups. 

Also, Luamanuvao says it also provides recommendations for the Government as the primary duty bearer of human rights to consider in ensuring that its COVID-19 measures are consistent with our Constitution, domestic laws, and policies safeguarding human rights, as well as with our international human rights obligations.

To further assist with its COVID-19 response, Luamanuvao strongly encourages the Government to favourably consider the recommendations formulated from submissions and research, and based on human rights principles contained in this Report. 

There are 44 recommendations outlined by the office of the ombudsman, including the Government ensuring that state of emergency measures are strictly temporary in scope, proportional, and the least intrusive to achieve the stated public health goals, and include safeguards such as review clauses, in order to ensure a return to ordinary laws as soon as the emergency situation is over. 

“Furthermore its responses to COVID-19 are inclusive, equitable, and universal to ensure no one is left behind and when enforcing vaccine mandates or proof of vaccination policies, the Government and agencies should take proactive steps to make sure that specific individuals are not discriminated against and/or disproportionately targeted. 

“Moreover, for people who cannot be vaccinated due to a health-protected ground, such as disability or a medical condition, reasonable accommodation by way of exemptions should be carefully balanced against the collective rights to health and safety.” 

Also the Government should ensure that its procedures for handling persons in managed isolation and quarantine are sound and robust and that they are strictly enforced to ensure the safety of everyone.

Regarding spending of public funds, the report says the Government should ensure that people are informed of its emergency spending. 

“Not only monies from the local budget but from foreign aid. This will not only ensure transparency and accountability but it is also a measure of good governance.”