Countries must not trample over human rights during the battle against Ebola, the UN's top watchdog has cautioned.
The 47-nation Human Rights Council -- whose members include Ebola-afflicted Sierra Leone -- said the loss of life in the epidemic was "horrifying" and lauded the "tireless efforts" of a host of players to try to defeat it.
AdvertisementEbola has infected nearly 6,300 people in West Africa and killed nearly half of them, according to the World Health Organization.
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea account for the overwhelming majority of cases, and have scrambled to try to contain its spread, often by imposing area-wide lockdowns and quarantining people.
In a unanimous decision, the council said that it was calling upon countries to "respect, protect and promote all human rights on the basis of equality while combating the epidemic on the ground".
States, it said, must be "mindful of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens of affected countries, when implementing measures to limit the spread of the virus".
It warned that the "negative effects of inappropriate actions that could result in the stigmatisation of the victims", as well as their families and wider communities.
"Inappropriate actions that lead to stigmatisation only serve to deepen the negative effects of the Ebola crisis on the enjoyment of human rights."
While medical experts say radical measures taken by authorities are needed, concerns have been raised that they could worsen the epidemic by heightening mistrust of the authorities and driving at-risk populations underground.
Sierra Leone began a quarantine of more than one million people Thursday in the largest open-ended lockdown in the Ebola outbreak.
Last week, it imposed a three-day curfew on the entire country.
Liberia last month imposed a state of emergency, with a night-time curfew.
Groups such as Human Rights Watch have urged the affected countries to ensure respect for human rights and transparency in their struggle to halt the epidemic.
Liberia, for example, has faced accusations of carrying out an assault on press freedom, using the epidemic as an alibi for a clampdown.
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