Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) has issued detailed advises on a range of actions government of Liberia should take to protect detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The advice provides measures for authorities concerning places of deprivation of liberty, including prisons, police holding cells and other detention centers in the country in order to mitigate the risks to health created by the Coronavirus.
In a release signed by Sam M. Nimely, National Coordinator, the organization said the measures include considering reducing 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 the use of immigration detention. The advice also emphasizes that all detainees, people in quarantine and closed medical settings, their families, and all staff, should receive reliable, accurate and the latest information concerning all adopted measures.
“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 said in a release.
According to the release, RAL wants governments to take precautionary measures necessary to prevent the spread of infection, and to implement emergency measures to ensure detainees have access to appropriate levels of health care and to maintain contact with families.
The advice also calls on independent national monitoring bodies, officially known as national preventive mechanisms (NPM), to continue exercising their preventive mandate 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.
The advice stresses that NPMs must be able to continue their preventive work, even if full access to places of deprivation of liberty is temporarily restricted.
Meanwhile, RAL says it is unfortunate for the government of Liberia through the Bureau of Correction and Rehabilitation to term the US State Department report on detention centers in Liberia as false and misleading when in fact all detention centers/prison facilities are in deplorable conditions in the country.
The human rights group says the statement of government is insensitive to the plights of detainees as government is even struggling to feed detainees throughout the country.
RAL is calling on the government of Liberia to recondition prison facilities as the present ones are not fit for human habitation.
Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) is a recognized national, regional and international human rights organization established in 1994. RAL is a member of some national, regional and international networks, including Transitional Justice Working Group; Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders; West Africa Human Rights Defenders Networks; Pan African Human Rights Defenders Networks; the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and the International Rehabilitation Council for Victims of Torture.