NHRC 9 KEY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT WITH REGARDS TO ALL DETENTION FACILITIES, THE RIGHTS OF PRE-TRIAL, REMAND AND CONVICTED PRISONERS DURING COVID-19 AND DEGONGESTION OF PRISONS (10 August 2020)
In the light of the current spike in the cases of COVID 19 infections rate particularly the worrying increase in the mortality rate, which has prompted the Government to make the wearing of face masks in public places compulsory and the President of the Republic to declare, on 5th August, a twenty-one day State of Public Emergency, as well as a curfew effective 6th August 2020, the NHRC also commends the Judiciary for putting in place measures regarding bail applications and other urgent matters as the Superior Courts proceed on vacation and the scaling down of operations with judicial officers sitting on rotational basis.
Whereas the NHRC recognizes the efforts of the State in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains concerned about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. As indicated in its letter of 25th March 2020, the NHRC would wish to reiterate and propose the following additional recommendations for your kind consideration:
1. That ventilation in all police cells and detention centers be greatly improved. The NHRC’s routine monitoring of detention facilities found the ventilation in sites visited to be extremely poor.
2. That face masks be provided to all detainees, remanded and convicted prisoners, police officers, prison officers and all those who come into contact with detainees.
3. That before people are remanded into custody in the remand wing of any of the three Prisons, they are tested for COVID-19.
4. That prisoners in all the three prisons are tested for COVID- 19 and those found to be positive isolated from the other prisoners.
5. That alleged offenders charged with offences that are nonviolent and/or not of a sexual nature be granted bail on lenient conditions.
6. That alleged offenders charged with nonviolent offences and/or crimes that are not of a sexual nature who are already in remand and awaiting trial be released on bail on lenient conditions.
7. That inmates who have committed nonviolent crimes and crimes that are not of a sexual nature and have served three-forth /75 percent of their sentences be eligible/considered for immediate released to reduce over congestion in prisons to curb the spread of the virus.
8. That in the interest of fair and speedy trial the Judiciary considers instituting Mobile Courts within the premises of Mile 2 Central, Jeshwang and Janjangbureh prisons. As you may be aware, Mobile Courts have been very effective in expediting criminal trials and consequently decongesting prisons in some jurisdictions.
9. That the Ministry of Justice urges the President to again exercise his powers as per Section 82 of the 1997 Constitution (Prerogative of Mercy) especially towards those convicts who are serving time for offences that are nonviolent or not of a sexual nature.
The NHRC continues to strongly believe that the aforementioned recommendations, if implemented, would help to assist in curtailing the high rise in COVID-19 cases, and decongest the prisons. It will also ensure speedy and fair trial for prisoners awaiting trial and or awaiting the outcome of their appeals