LHR’s Human Rights Day Statement

Date: 21/03/2020

On this Human Rights Day, amidst the growing COVID-19 threat, Lawyers for Human Rights calls on all in South Africa to remain vigilant – as we will – to ensure that human rights in our country are respected and protected.




This is especially critical in respect of our most vulnerable and marginalized for and with whom LHR works: those who may bear the brunt of the outbreak, due to crowded living conditions, limited access to water, ineffective sanitation networks and – critically – reliance on a public health care system ill-equipped to cope.

While every effort must be taken to limit the spread of the virus, these measures must be just, and must be human rights-based.

In the last week, we have called for a moratorium on the detention and deportation of migrants, as well as unnecessary arrests and detention for minor offenses.  We have called on the Department of Home Affairs to present its plan of action regarding the renewal of asylum seeker permits, considering the great crowds that gather at reception offices seeking to do just this. And we have supported calls for a cessation on evictions during the crisis, as homelessness will add only another layer of vulnerability to those who remain at particular risk.

We stand in solidarity with informal workers, including those who undertake domestic work, waste reclaiming, and street trading, amongst others, who have no access to an unemployment scheme or social security, and who frequently live on small incomes. Implementing hygiene practices required to stem the tide of this outbreak amongst these workers will be nearly impossible without intervention by the state and the private sector, and we support the calls by these workers for this assistance.

Women in South Africa make up the vast majority of care workers and domestic workers, and they will face particular burden during this period. We know, too, from previous pandemics, that violence against women could increase during these times. The rights of women and children must be protected. Our political will cannot waiver.

Our incarcerated population must also be shielded from exposure to the virus, without compromising their right to access legal counsel.

There is no question that the potential scale of the current crisis demands that the state, private business, and other stakeholders take up roles  in vigorously protecting the most vulnerable among us, the ranks of whom will undoubtedly swell as the COVID-19 outbreak accelerates.

During this period of enormous uncertainty, and challenge, LHR will remain at the forefront of efforts to ensure that human rights are upheld, as it has during the course of so many difficult periods in its 40-year history.  Our dozens of legal professionals who work in our six offices across the country will continue to discharge the mission of this organisation on this Human Rights Day and through this crisis.

Please contact us on the following emergency numbers:

Johannesburg: 066 076 8845

Pretoria: 072 155 6384

Durban: 078 315 1296

Upington: 054 331 2200

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