‘Give Inmates Special Attention During COVID-19’ – CSOs Demand

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Monrovia – Following the deceleration of the State of Emergency by President George M. Weah, two civil society organizations, Her Voice Liberia and Sister’s Hand, are calling for special attention to be paid to inmates at various prison facilities across the country.

According to the two organizations, people in the various detention facilities around the country have no choice in adhering to some of the many COVID-19 preventive measures such as social distancing due to prison congestions which makes prisoners vulnerable to disease outbreak.

Speaking to reporters, Atty. Margaret Nigba, Executive Director of Her Voice Liberia said social distancing and isolation is a major challenge for inmates at various prison facilities around the country due to limited space.

To manage such situation, Atty. Nigba is calling for regular examination of every person currently in prison and those that might be taken there during the course of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Also, Correction Officers who move in and out of the prison, she said, they should be screened to avoid the situation of any possible contamination by these officers who might mingle with people outside and do the same with inmates and likely cause an outbreak in prison facilities.

Inmates are in a very closed environment and due to stress, lack of good nutritional diets and other harsh conditions, they are exposed to diseases.

Atty. Margaret Nigba, Executive Director of Her Voice Liberia (pictured), chats with correctional officers at one of Liberia’s prison facilities

The Executive Director of Her Voice Liberia noted that during the State of Emergency, inmates will suffer more stressful conditions due to isolation as family members might not be able to pay regular visitations as a consequence of restrictions that will create more emotional distress for inmates.

Atty. Nigba says as a way of tackling the problem facing inmates, President George Weah should consider granting clemency to certain category of prisoners including those in jail on misdemeanor offenses in order to decongest prisons to avoid any outbreak in prison and detention facilities.

She added that prison authorities should pay special attention to people in prison with existing health problems and ensure they receive the needed treatment to improve their immune system to fight any disease.

The human rights activist has cautioned the Government to ensure that security forces protect the human rights of vulnerable people including women and children during the current State of Emergency.

Meanwhile, the human rights advocacy organizations have alarmed over reports of security brutalities against citizens where security forces are said to be beating people within the communities.

“We call on Government through the state security agencies to observe citizens’ rights during this crisis considering Access to Health, Housing, Gender, Water and Sanitation, Freedom of Information, Privacy, Stigmatization and People in Prisons. All of these considerations should be made by adhering to the applicable international standards,” Atty. Nigba said.

The Her Voice Liberia Executive Director said while people are compelled to remain home, women and children should not be subjected to any form of domestic violence.

“While people are compelled to stay at home due to this crisis, women and children are not drums to be beaten or subjected to any form of violence and abuse”, she warned.

She indicated that when families are kept in the same location for long period, vulnerable members of the family including women and children become the subject of abuse.

The Human rights activist is cautioning the Government to put in place measures that will ensure security forces are monitored to protect the human rights of all Liberians and residents while enforcing the State of Emergency.

She indicated that the State of Emergency was declared for the sake of protecting the citizens against the COVID-19 and as such, their human rights should be protected since the emergency is intended to protect the same people.

Atty. Nigba declared that respect for basic human rights should be at the core of enforcement of preventive measures during the State of Emergency.

She said the two organizations will be very rigorous in monitoring events in prison facilities around the country and also trend of human rights events in communities and homes. 

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