UNDP Representative Wants Prison Facilities Decongested

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L-R: UNDP Country Representative, Dr. Beyai, Madam Kudya representing OHCHR and Madam Marry T. Broh GSA Director General and National Coordinator on COVID-19 response

To prevent the possible spread of COVID-19

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Country Representative, Pa Lamin Beyai has called on the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) to decongest prison facilities across the country to prevent inmates from contracting the Coronavirus or its possible spread.

Speaking at a handover ceremony where several anti-coronavirus materials were handed over to the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the BCR, UNDP Country Representative Pa Lamin Beyai told policymakers to consider decongesting prisons to reduce the impact of a possible COVID-19 incident within prison facilities.  He acknowledged that it was a great pleasure to be a part of the handover ceremony to give materials to the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Bureau of Corrections through the National Response coordinator.

At the same time, he cautioned policymakers to take every precautionary measure that will revert the spread of the disease despite having anti-coronavirus materials available.

He said such a practice has worked elsewhere in Africa to respond to the pandemic which Liberia may want to reflect on with the early release of low-risk prison inmates.

It is not clear how many persons are currently in the Monrovia Central Prison facility that was built only for 350 persons; however, recent reports alarmed that well over 1,000 persons are incarcerated there with additional people going there daily for different crimes.  Most of them, according to insiders, are pretrial detainees.

The donation ceremony at which the UNDP Country Representative spoke was held on May 27, 2020.

The items turned over included megaphones, hand sanitizers, hand washing buckets, bleach disinfectants, examination gloves as well as T-Shirts, and face caps among others.

According to the UNDP, the kind gesture is under its joint Rule of Law Program with the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), with funding from the Governments of Sweden and Ireland.

The Program provides technical, capacity building, and service delivery support to Liberia’s justice and security sector and supports public demand for access to justice through civil society engagement in Liberia.

He conveyed a message from the Embassies of Ireland and Sweden, pledging continued partnership and support to the Government of Liberia’s security sector.  Beyai said: “As part of the wider joint UN support efforts to the government of Liberia COVID-19 we have decided to present these items to respond adequately to the pandemic.”

He added that UNDP and other partners have provided assistance specifically to the prisoners as well as technical support, and ensured that measures are put in place to be able to respond to the coronavirus and develop the capacity of their personnel to address health-related matters and to protect the inmates.

Dr. Beyai recounted UNDP and the OHCHR’s support to community policing to bring confidence between communities and the government, adding that it is timely and necessary to use the support platform to conduct COVID-19 sensitization to dispel misinformation which may cause the virus to spread further.

He mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is posing an unprecedented challenge to Liberia and other great countries across the world, emphasizing that the pandemic affects vulnerable people including those in prison and Ireland and Sweden will continue to partner with Liberia to support the country’s response to COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on Liberians.

A representative of OHCHR, Danai Kudya, said they have implored global solidarity to fight the pandemic. Madam Kudya lauded the efforts by the Liberian government to ensure that the rights of people are respected in the fight of Covid-19.

“I would like to congratulate the Liberian judiciary and justice system for the milestones that have been achieved over the years, which include the construction of new courthouses, assignment maintenance of courts officials around the country, developing of magistrates in the 15 counties, and training and development of public defenders,” she added.

She also acknowledged another significant achievement of the governments for the level of compliance with the human rights treaty obligations.

Madam Kudya further stressed that the importance of solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 globally, and more contextually in Liberia cannot be overemphasized. “Respect and protection of human rights must play a central role in responding to the COVID-19 crisis if we must defeat this global pandemic,” she stressed.

She clarified that OHCHR has a broad mandate to ensure respect, protection, and promotion of all human rights for all people at all times.

She also recalled that OHCHR has restructured its programs during the pandemic to monitor the human rights impact of COVID-19 enforcements measures.

Kudya said: “OHCHR is grateful to its government and non-governmental partners for endeavoring to continue carrying the human rights to torch as they work to bend the curve and curb the spread of COVID-19 in Liberia.”

She disclosed that as part of efforts to fight the virus, several partners that have been deployed in the field to monitor human rights as well as to engage with the government COVID-19 response pillar as the country makes frantic efforts to fight against the spread of the virus.

Today’s event is important for us because the right to life is the foundation of all human rights therefore one has to be alive to enjoy other rights.

“I want to note, in particular, how remarkable the support from the Embassy of Sweden has been in ensuring support to the Human Rights Commission and the civil society community.”

The support, she said, has led to the deployment of over 100 independent human rights monitors from the INCHR, Ministry of Justice human rights division and CSOs to monitor and report on the human rights concerns and violations arising from the government COVID-19 response.

Also during the brief ceremony, General Services Agency (GSA), Madam Mary Broh who earlier received the items from the UNDP and its partners, presented a certificate of appreciation to UNDP for its continued support to the COVID-19 task force and Liberia at large.

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