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Amnesty calls on African countries to unclog prisons

Older prisoners, pregnant women and those with dependent children should be released, says rights group

Felix Tih  | 20.04.2020 - Update : 20.04.2020
Amnesty calls on African countries to unclog prisons


Authorities in Sub-Saharan Africa must take urgent action to protect prisoners from the coronavirus and guarantee access to healthcare and sanitation in all detention facilities, a global human rights watchdog said on Monday.

In a statement, Amnesty International called on governments to release prisoners of conscience, review cases of pre-trial detention, as well as women and girls who are in detention with dependent children or those who are pregnant.

“As COVID-19 spreads across Sub-Saharan Africa, the severe overcrowding seen in many prisons and detention centers risks becoming a public health catastrophe, especially given the general lack of health care and sanitation,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International's Director for West and Central Africa.

“In many countries across the region, a high proportion of those in detention are there just for peacefully exercising their human rights.

“As well as being the right thing to do, releasing prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally would free up space in these facilities and help to protect prisoners and staff from the virus,” Daoud added.

African governments have introduced numerous measures to stem the spread of the virus, including closing schools and markets, imposing travel restrictions, banning large gatherings and releasing prisoners.

At least 21,317 confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 1,080 deaths and 5,203 recoveries have so far been reported in Africa, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (Africa CDC).

After first appearing in Wuhan, China in December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions.

Data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University showed worldwide infections surging past 2.4 million, with more than 165,200 deaths. Over 625,200 people have recovered.

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