UN calls for release of detainees to prevent virus outbreak

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called for the urgent release of detainees around the world to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic from wreaking havoc in the often overcrowded prisons.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Wednesday March 25 for the urgent release of detainees around the world to prevent the virus from spreading. “devastation” in prisons.

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The High Commissioner urges “governments and relevant authorities to work quickly to reduce the number of people in detention”, for example by releasing “older and sick detainees, as well as low risk offenders”.

Exceptional measures in France

In France, the Keeper of the Seals Nicole Belloubet has already presented several exceptional measures for justice, some of which should make it possible to release between 5,000 and 6,000 prisoners from French prisons.

These measures allow “to assess with more leniency than usual requests for reduction of sentence or parole,” said Wednesday Nicole Belloubet. Certain existing arrangements – in particular concerning the examination of suspensions of sentence and forced release – and on which judges for the enforcement of sentences (JAP) have been working for ten days, will be simplified.

French prisons, which suffer from chronic overcrowding, have more than 70,000 prisoners for some 61,000 operational places.

A global concern

In other countries, the situation is alarming. In Syria, the new coronavirus could cause a “disaster” in the overcrowded prisons of the Bashar al-Assad regime, where the lack of medical care puts tens of thousands of detainees at risk of contamination, warned NGOs. “A single case of coronavirus in detention centers (…) will be catastrophic,” said Sara Kayyali, researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In Colombia, the government has announced emergency measures to cope with overcrowding in prisons during a coronavirus epidemic after a violent mutiny in Bogota that left 23 dead and 90 injured. It has spread to a dozen prisons across the country.

With AFP

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