A local advocacy group, Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) recommends wide range of actions to government to protect detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measures cover places of deprivation of liberty, including prisons, police holding cells and other detention centers in the country to mitigate the risks to health created by the Coronavirus.
National Coordinator Sam M. Nimely, in a release says the measures include a need to reduce prison populations by implementing schemes of early, provisional or temporary release of low-risk offenders, reviewing all cases of pre-trial detention, extending the use of bail for all but the most serious cases, as well as reviewing and reducing use of immigration detention.
He also emphasizes that families of detainees and people in quarantine should have access to reliable, accurate and latest information concerning all adopted measures against the virus.
“Within the space of a few short weeks, Coronavirus has had a profound impact on the daily life of everyone. Within prisons and other settings of deprivation of liberty, many of which are severely overcrowded and insanitary, there are increasingly acute problems which require immediate action, the human rights organization urges.
RAL wants government to take precautionary measures necessary to prevent spread of infection, and to implement emergency measures to ensure detainees have access to appropriate levels of health care as well as maintain contact with families.
The institution calls on independent national monitoring bodies, officially known as national preventive mechanisms (NPM), to continue exercising preventive mandates during the pandemic, including visits to places of detention when possible, bearing in mind the legitimate social contact restrictions, and the “do no harm” principle.
Meanwhile, RAL says it is unfortunate for the Government of Liberia through the Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitation to term the U.S. State Department’s recent report on detention centers in Liberia as false and misleading when in fact, all detention centers/prison facilities across the country are in deplorable conditions.
It notes that government’s response to the report is an act of insensitivity to the plights of detainees, as the authorities struggle to feed detainees throughout the country.
RAL also wants government to recondition prison facilities, as present ones are not fit for human habitation. Press Release