The UAE must take measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in prison and protect prisoners

This post is also available in: arالعربية (Arabic)

Geneva, March 27, 2020

In the past weeks, the world witnessed an uncontrolled spread of the Coronavirus, known as the COVID-19, which has reached close to 500 000 persons over the world and killed over 23 000. The virus did not spare the UAE, where over 300 cases have tested positive so far.

During this pandemic, the International Centre for Justice and Human Rights (ICJHR) is particularly concerned by the risk of spread of the disease in detention facilities. Many prisoners are facing increased risks due to their poor health.

Inmates in many Emirati jails have witnessed extremely harsh conditions and inhuman treatment  since their arrest, which has caused the deterioration of their state of health. Detainees and witnesses have described inhuman conditions of detention, especially in the most notorious prisons of Al-Wathba, Al-Razeen and Al-Sadr. UN experts have recently released a statement to denounce the “degrading conditions in the Al-Wathba prison” after a female prisoner detained in isolation attempted to commit suicide.

Multiple consistent testimonies have reported deplorable conditions of detention and systematic inhuman treatment of prisoners. Prisoners are held in overcrowded cells without proper air ventilation. The lack of hygiene and adequate health care have seriously impacted the state of health of many prisoners so far and constitute an important risk of spread of the virus.

The spread of the disease in such conditions may have disastrous consequences and cost the life of many detainees. Detainees with chronic diseases and in poor health are particularly vulnerable to the virus which may cause them severe respiratory distress and lead to their death.

The Centre calls upon the authorities to immediately release all prisoners of conscience and all those detained arbitrarily. Such a measure may help address the overcrowding in prisons and reduce the risk of infection of detainees. The authorities must immediately take measures to protect all inmates, in particular those with chronic illnesses, elderly persons and anyone in poor health.

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This post is also available in: arالعربية (Arabic)

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