HRW calls for the urgent protection of prisoners in UAE jails
UAE prison authorities should take urgent measures to protect the health of prisoners amid reported Covid-19 outbreaks in at least three detention facilities across the country, Human Rights Watch said today.
Family members of inmates at al-Wathba prison near Abu Dhabi, as well as those at al-Awir prison and the new al-Barsha detention center in Dubai have reported that their imprisoned relatives have symptoms of Covid-19 or have tested positive but are denied adequate medical care by prison authorities.
“Crowded, unsanitary prison conditions and widespread denial of adequate medical care are nothing new in the UAE’s notorious detention facilities, but the ongoing pandemic is an additional serious threat to prisoners’ well-being,” said Michael Page, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch.
Several family members said they hadn’t been able to communicate with detained relatives for weeks. Human Rights Watch wrote to the UAE interior minister on June 7, 2020 but has received no response.
“The best way for UAE authorities to allay concerns of prisoners’ family members is to allow inspection by independent, international monitors”, Page added.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases per day in the UAE continues to rise, with 39,376 total cases by June 9.
It is the Emirati authorities’ responsibility to provide concerned family members with regular updates about their relatives’ wellbeing and to be transparent about the number of cases of coronavirus infections in UAE detention facilities. Authorities must also act quickly to mitigate the impact of the virus and control its spread by reducing prison populations and providing essential medical care. At the forefront of any such measures must be the concern for prisoners’ health and wellbeing.