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Pre-trial detention drops – foreign detainees face repatriation

Justice Minister Cllr. Christina P. Tah, has announced a reduction in the prison population of pre-trial detainees by 200 at the Monrovia Central Prison, as part of the government’s measures to decongest prisons in the wake of the Ebola crisis here.

Minister Tah spoke at the Ministry of Justice on 9th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia at the launch of the “Protection Cluster” which was graced by senior cabinet members, UN Human Rights offices, UNICEF, and justice actors committed to human rights and child protection issues.

When the Ebola outbreak intensified here in July, the Liberian Attorney General said, “We had 1,035 people in prison,” with “eighty percent” of them – [approximately 828] – being pre-trial detainees.

With pre-trial detainees’ population reduced by 200 right now, she says the total inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison or South Beach currently is about 854, less than previously a thousand.

Cllr. Tah said Government is working to see how this number could be reduced further. She said the new category of inmates being worked on as of Wednesday, 1st October are foreigners, including Nigerians, Guineans, and Americans, among others, who are to be repatriated to their respective countries.

She said repatriated pre-trial detainees will serve their terms in their countries for whatever they did here, “rather than keep them in the environment that they have no control of, and have them contract the disease.”

Minister Tah said the Justice Ministry is ready to provide the operational environment in executing the Protection Cluster, as government and partners work to improve the welfare of Liberians and residents.

Also speaking with reporters after the launch, UNICEF’s Acting Child Protection Chief, Andrew Brooks, said recognizing that the Ebola outbreak has significant protection implication; UNICEF will support the Ministries of Health and Gender in the coordination of child protection.

He said the idea of the Protection Cluster is to support government by bringing all actors together, local and international in looking at the many child protection issues, including children’s separation from their families and abandonment, orphans and children with specific needs such as disabilities.

Mr. Brooks told reporters that in Liberia, there is a tradition of children being looked after by extended families, and this was the test now, given the Ebola situation in the country. He said support will be provided at the community level, especially in counties affected by the Ebola virus to improve care for children.

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