UN urges quick action by governments to reduce prison populations: Will UAE respond?
As COVID-19 continues to spread, the United Nations has called for countries to reduce the number of people in detention facilities, where the virus could “rampage” with particularly catastrophic effects.
Emirati prisons are notoriously overcrowded with people held in unhygienic conditions and inadequate, or non-existent, health services.
"Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible”, UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement last week. She encouraged authorities to examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19; older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders. They should also continue to provide for the specific health-care requirements of women prisoners, inmates with disabilities and juvenile detainees.
“Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views”, Bachelet continued.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) more than 200 political dissidents are currently behind bars including detainees with chronic diseases, such as Sorbonne university lecturer and prisoner of conscience Dr Nasser bin Ghaith who suffers from cardiomegaly, a heart condition.
The UN High Commissioner urged that "[w]ith outbreaks of the disease, and an increasing number of deaths, already reported in prisons and other institutions in an expanding number of countries, authorities should act now to prevent further loss of life among detainees and staff."
However, UAE authorities, as of now, have declared no intention to reduce the number of prison inmates despite recent reports of over 400 cases of coronavirus infections across the country.