International human rights organization Amnesty International has criticized China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others for allegedly exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine human rights.
It condemned rich countries such as the U.S. and some in the European Union for allegedly hoarding vaccines at the expense of the world's poorer nations.
The London-based nonprofit's view is explained in its "Amnesty International Report 2020/21: The State of the World's Human Rights" released Wednesday.
It criticized China, Egypt, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Hungary for using the pandemic to repress citizens' rights.
Amnesty said China had been grossly irresponsible during the pandemic. It accused China of censoring health workers and journalists who attempted to make the outbreak public in early 2020.
"COVID-19 intensified a crackdown on freedom of expression with a number of citizen journalists who reported on the outbreak going missing and, in some cases, being imprisoned," the report said.
Amnesty said there was growing evidence of "grave human rights violations" in China - "including torture and enforced disappearances" of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Hungary used the pandemic to silence criticism, it said.
Some leaders "have tried to normalize the overbearing emergency measures they've ushered in to combat COVID-19, whilst a particularly virulent strain of leader has gone a step further," said Amnesty's secretary-general Agnes Callamard.
"They have seen this as an opportunity to entrench their own power. Instead of supporting and protecting people, they have simply weaponized the pandemic to wreak havoc on people's rights."
The report said "existing inequalities as a result of decades of toxic leadership have left ethnic minorities, refugees, older persons and women disproportionately negatively affected."
"At the global level, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated inequalities," Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director Philip Luther said.
"Cruelly, those who gave the most were often protected the least in this pandemic. The pandemic had a devastating impact on health workers," he added.