With additional three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Virus reported, Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) has called on the government of Liberia to put measures in place to protect detainees during the pandemic.
The human rights report on Liberia published by the U.S. State Department this year indicates that approximately one-half of the country’s 2,700 prisoners are at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP) that was originally built for 374 detainees, now holds 1,262 inmates.
The report said that the prison conditions in Liberia are so poor that they violate basic human rights with inmates crowded into dirty cells without adequate food, water or healthcare.
RAL provided 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.
The group in a release signed by Sam M. Nimely, National Coordinator, said the measures include considering reducing prison populations by implementing schemes of the 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.
Nimely emphasized 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,” he said.
Nimely said the institution wants the government to take precautionary measures necessary to prevent the spread of infection and to implement emergency measures to ensure that detainees have access to appropriate levels of healthcare and maintain contact with families.
“We are also calling 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 that the legitimate social contact restrictions, and the ‘do no harm’ principle are followed,” he said.
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, Nimely said 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.
Nimely said the statement of the government is insensitive to the plights of detainees as the government is even struggling to feed detainees throughout the country.
He called on the government to recondition prison facilities as the present ones are not fit for human habitation.
Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL) is a national, regional and international human rights organization established in 1994. RAL is a member of networking group 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.