UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday called for the urgent release of detainees around the world to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from wreaking havoc in the often overcrowded prisons.
• Read also: LIVE | The latest developments on the coronavirus
• Read also: COVID-19: Good traffic comparable to Christmas at the SAQ
After the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, the High Commissioner urged “governments and relevant authorities to work quickly to reduce the number of people in detention”, for example by releasing “the oldest and those who are sick, as well as low risk offenders ”.
“COVID-19 has started to strike prisons, remand centers and immigration detention centers, as well as residential care centers and psychiatric hospitals, and is likely to wreak havoc on populations who are extremely vulnerable to within these institutions, “she warned, acknowledging that” several countries [avaient] already taken positive actions ”in this sense.
Ethiopia notably announced on Wednesday an amnesty and the forthcoming release of more than 4,000 prisoners to relieve congestion in its prisons.
The ex-president of Chile, who knew the jails of the Pinochet regime in the 1970s, also urged governments to “release anyone detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and those detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting opinions ”.
“Once released, these people should undergo a medical examination and measures should be taken to ensure that they receive the necessary care and follow-up, including medical follow-up,” she added.