CHR prods gov’t action on ‘sorry’ state of detention facilities amid COVID-19 crisis
MANILA, Philippines – The situation in the country’s detention facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic should push the government to fix the long-standing problem, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Thursday.
According to the CHR, the status within detention facilities should be fixed before even more persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) could get infected with the latest coronavirus strain, and to avoid drastic measures in the future — like freeing several prisoners just to ensure their safety.
“Even before the pandemic, prison populations are among those most vulnerable given the conditions of detention — typically with poor hygiene, dramatic overcrowding, and poor healthcare infrastructure within these facilities,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
“Such situation, if not addressed, may result to cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment, which goes against the country’s commitment to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT),” she added.
De Guia also reminded law enforcement officials to still respect the rights of accused individuals, even as a public health emergency is ongoing.
“Even as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) continues, with confirmed cases having emerged in places of detention, the government remains duty-bound to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people,” she explained.
“(A)ny and all measures aimed (at) containing or addressing the effects of the pandemic with places of detention need to be devised and implemented with full recognition and respect of the aforementioned rights, including those of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs),” she added.
CHR previously called on the government to ensure the safety of PDLs as the pandemic was just picking up speed in the Philippines. Human rights group Karapatan likewise asked for the temporary release of the prisoners amid reports of localized infections inside jail facilities.
Infections started after a PDL, suspected of carrying the coronavirus strain, died inside the Quezon City jail — one of the most congested penal facilities in the country. Soon after, at least nine other inmates and nine personnel inside the same jail also contracted COVID-19.
Despite a marked slowing down of casualties due to the virus, and an uptick in the number of recoveries, government is cautious enough to say that it has yet to flatten the infection curve.
On Thursday, the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 11,876 with 258 additional cases recorded.
Worldwide, over 4.347 million persons have been infected, 297,170 of whom have died while 1.548 million have recovered.
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