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NEWS

Short Update: Interim Guidance by OHCHR/WHO Inter-Agency Standing Committee – COVID-19: Focus on Persons Deprived of their Liberty

FairTrialsAdmin - April 17, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Prison conditions

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the OHCHR and WHO, published an interim guidance on COVID-19 and persons deprived of their liberty. The guidance urges authorities to engage and analyse the situation of detention centres and places where persons are deprived of their liberty. Authorities should engage with key stakeholders like human rights networks, national human rights Institutions and civil society organisations, as well as detention centres monitoring bodies.

The guidance encourages public authorities to take immediate steps to address prison overcrowding, including measures to respect WHO guidance on social distancing and other health measures. Moreover, states should prioritise the release of individuals, including children, persons with underlying health conditions, persons with low risk profiles and who have committed minor and petty offences, persons with imminent release dates and those detained for offences not recognized under international law.

States should also ensure that persons in detention have access to the same standard of health care as is available in the community, this should apply to all persons regardless of citizenship, nationality or migration status. Information on preventive health measures should be provided to all persons deprived of their liberty in a language and format they understand and that is accessible; and efforts should be made to improve the hygiene and the cleanliness of the detention places. Such measures should be gender, culture, abilities and age sensitive.

The guidance urges states to respect human rights when implementing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ability to meet with legal counsel should be maintained, and prison authorities should ensure that lawyers can speak with their clients confidentially.  Even in a state of emergency, states may not deviate from fundamental principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence.

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