European NGOs Call for Urgent Attention for Prisons in Covid-19 Crisis
Efforts to control COVID-19 in the community are likely to fail if strong (…) measures are not carried out in prisons as well” – World Health Organization
The NHC has joined other European NGOs in calling for sufficient response from the Council of Europe to address the issue of COVID-19 in prisons across Europe. The Council should provide a clear frame of how national governments are to respond to the risk posed by COVID-19 in prisons.
Practitioners, doctors, NGOs and torture prevention institutions, including the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), have called on governments to reduce their detained populations. However governments across Europe have not all been responding to this call. Instead they are waiting to see what policies other countries are adopting and sometimes are adopting policies that will increase the prison population. This is why a strong response at supranational level is necessary.
At a time as national systems are in turmoil, it is high time for the Council of Europe, in particular the Committee of Ministers currently chaired by Georgia, and the Secretary General to assume their role as a point of reference and actively work on concrete steps enabling a rapid reduction in detained populations and other necessary measures by its 47 member states. In addition, the CPT, tasked with preventing torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, should be expected to oversee detention conditions in the current crisis.
Today, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner has issued a statement that reflects many of the points raised by the NGO appeal. The Commissioner said: “Member states should urgently adopt and implement a humane and comprehensive crisis plan supported by adequate human and financial resources, and which caters to the needs of those who leave prisons, those who remain in detention and prison staff. This should be done in consultation and co-operation with relevant human rights stakeholders, in particular National Preventive Mechanisms, other independent monitoring bodies, national human rights structures and human rights NGOs.”
Read the full Op-Ed here: COVID-19 IN PRISON: THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE MUST LEAD ON POLICIES TO ADDRESS THE COVID-19 CHALLENGES