Template application for the urgent release from pre-trial detention
The grip of COVID-19 across the globe has made the liberty of arrested people take on a new urgency. Incarcerated people are some of the most vulnerable to infectious disease due to poor access to sanitation and health facilities, unsanitary conditions and often overcrowded detention facilities, making physical distance and isolation impossible. One of the most important public health measures to combat COVID-19 is restriction of physical contact and proximity. But the very nature of incarceration makes this practically impossible.
The only way to preserve public health and safety and protect the right to life, is to reduce the number of people in detention facilities. With pre-trial detainees making up a third and more of the prison population in many countries, reducing the use of pre-trial detention would protect the health not only of detained persons, but also the many professionals who come into contact with people in detention (including detention staff and lawyers) and the families and communities to which both staff and prison residents return.
We hear that some judges are starting to make fewer pre-trial detention orders, which is helping put fewer new people into detention and reduce prison population. But this is not the case everywhere. People continue to be sent into prison, including as a result of the newly introduced offences related to the COVID19 crisis, such as spitting on a police officer. And there are many people who have been in detention before the crisis started, and whose release should be considered.
Lawyers play a key role in resisting pre-trial detention orders by highlighting the risk to health and life of putting someone in detention during the pandemic. This is also a time to make urgent applications for release of clients who’ve been held up in pre-trial detention since before the crisis started. Criminal defence lawyers of Conférence des avocats du barreau de Paris in Paris and Christophe Deprez (the associate of Belgian LEAP Advisory Board Member Christophe Marchand) in Brussels developed template applications for the urgent release of persons held in pre-trial detention, based on the relevant standards set by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
We are keen to support similar initiatives in other countries. Based on the templates developed by lawyers in Paris and Brussels, we’ve put together an outline application for release from pre-trial detention, with the relevant human rights standards in English. Let us know if you need further support. We’re also keen to look beyond individual applications for release, so please contact us if you’d like to share views on requesting a systemic review of pre-trial detention orders.