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Deutschland | Heiko Maas (SPD), Bundesaußenminister | Bundestag
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

Germany's Heiko Maas: Authoritarians are using coronavirus

May 15, 2020

The German foreign minister has expressed "great concern how the crisis is boosting authoritarians." Maas told the Bundestag that some leaders were using the coronavirus outbreak to exert greater authority over citizens.


The outbreak of COVID-19 has had serious consequences for human rights, with authoritarian leaders taking advantage of the pandemic to exert greater authority, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Bundestag on Friday.

"We are observing with great concern how the crisis is boosting authoritarians," the Social Democrat (SPD) politician said during a debate in the German parliament in Berlin.

Read more: 'Governments by their nature are tempted to violate human rights'

Maas listed repressive measures taken against journalists in Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Turkey and China as examples of responses to the pandemic, all of which are designed to repress freedoms.

However, matters closer to home were also of concern to Maas.

"Right here in Europe we are seeing how emergency measures are being used to cut back the rule of law," he said.

Maas welcomed moves by the European Commission to launch a systematic observation of the emergency measures put in place across the bloc.

Concerns have been aired after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban secured far-reaching powers from parliament without a time limit in the wake of the pandemic.

Read more: UN chief: Pandemic is fast becoming 'human rights crisis'

While all EU member states were, in theory, able to restrict human rights temporarily to temper the outbreak, Maas stressed that the measures must have "legitimate purposes."

"They have to be proportionate and above all they must be temporary," he said, promising that Germany would call for this when it assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council on July 1.

jsi/rc (AFP, dpa)

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