Sat | Sep 23, 2017

UN: Treat Ebola victims with dignity

Published:Friday | October 17, 2014 | 10:00 AM

The New United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, is expressing alarm over anti-African prejudices arising from the Ebola crisis, warning against what he describes as ill-conceived quarantine enforcements and discriminatory travel restrictions.

In his first news conference yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, since formally taking over the job on September 1, the UN human-rights chief said it was important that those who have been infected with Ebola be treated with dignity.

He admonished against restrictive actions, including criminal penalties, that he said could have the opposite effect.

"Only a response that is built on respect for human rights will be successful in quashing the epidemic," said al-Hussein.

"We must also beware of 'us' and 'them', a mentality that locks people into rigid identity groups and reduces all Africans - or all West Africans, or some smaller, national or local group - to a stereotype."

As the global response to the crisis accelerates, he said: "It is also vital that every person struck down with Ebola be treated with dignity, not stigmatised or cast out."

He said his office was drafting guidelines on quarantining, because "if imposed and enforced injudiciously, quarantine can very easily not only violate a wide range of human rights, but in so doing, accelerate the spread of diseases like Ebola".