OHCHR / COVID-19 PRISONS

26-Mar-2020 00:02:51
Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif has called on governments to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities, as part of overall efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. OHCHR
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STORY: OHCHR / COVID-19 PRISONS
TRT: 2:51
SOURCE: OHCHR
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ARABIC / NATS

DATELINE: 26 MARCH 2020, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
SHOTLIST
FILE – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

1. Aerial shot, Palais Wilson exterior

26 MARCH 2020, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:
“Peace be with you all. The Novelle Coronavirus has started to spread in a large number of countries around the world, and I want to highlight through this message the dangers facing prisons, migrant detention centres, as well as homes for the elderly, psychiatric hospitals and other closed centres.

The spread of the virus threatens these institutions and those housed in them and increases the risks of spreading the virus.

As you know, detention facilities are overcrowded in many countries, in some cases dangerously so.

Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible in these conditions.

So, we are calling on governments to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention.

Naturally, we know Governments are facing huge demands to secure the necessary resources in this crisis and are having to take many difficult decisions.

But we urge them not to forget those behind bars, or in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages, so we can avoid catastrophic consequences for those detained, for staff, for visitors, and for society as a whole.

Based on this, we call on authorities to examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to the virus – such as older and sick detainees. To drastically reduce prison populations -- so physical distancing becomes possible -- they should also consider releasing low-risk offenders. Some countries have started to do this.

Now more than ever, governments should free every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.

In light of the grave challenges and as governments take firm steps to enforce physical distancing, it is important remind not to hasten to imprison those who fail to obey these measures.

This, of course, is likely to exacerbate the already dangerous situation in prisons and do little to halt the spread of this disease. Imprisonment should be a measure of last resort, particularly during this crisis.

I thank you and wish you all good health.”

FILE – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

3. Aerial shot, Palais Wilson exterior
STORYLINE
Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif has called on governments to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities, as part of overall efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Deputy High Commissioner urged governments and relevant authorities to work quickly to reduce the number of people in detention, noting several countries have already undertaken some positive actions.

Al-Nashif called on authorities to “examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to the virus – such as older and sick detainees.” She added, “To drastically reduce prison populations -- so physical distancing becomes possible -- they should also consider releasing low-risk offenders.”


The Deputy High Commissioner called on authorities not to rush to jail those who fail to obey physical distancing measure as this “likely to exacerbate the already dangerous situation in prisons and do little to halt the spread of this disease.” She said imprisonment should be a measure of last resort, particularly during this crisis.
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