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Rights group: Coronavirus outbreak in Middle East prisons would be a ‘tragedy’

March 18, 2020 at 9:47 am

Prison cells, 10 March 2020 [Daniel/Flickr]

Euro-Mediterranean Human Right Monitor warned that an outbreak of the novel coronavirus among prisoners in jails in the Middle East would “lead to a devastating tragedy in no time”, a statement said yesterday.

Authorities should “immediately release all political detainees and prisoners of conscience from crowded and unsafe prisons to protect them from catching the virus,” the group added.

In the statement, Euro-Med pointed out that the prisons in the Middle East “are among the most vulnerable areas to the outbreak of the Coronavirus as they are often overcrowded and lack proper hygiene and infrastructure.”

A single infection of a prison guard, visitor, inmate or detainee of this highly contagious disease would lead to a devastating tragedy in no time.

The rights group hailed the measures taken by some of the countries in the Middle East as they had conditionally released thousands of prisoners, including Iran which released about 70,000 prisoners and Bahrain which released 901.

“Unfortunately, political detainees and prisoners of conscience were entirely absent from such pardons, remain imprisoned in worse conditions than normal inmates and suffer from deliberate neglect,” the statement said.

“Whether in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel or others, tens of thousands of political prisoners and detainees are languishing behind bars with ever more growing fears over their fate should Coronavirus spread to their places of captivity.”

READ: Calls for Saudi to release prisoners to stop coronavirus spread

The statement pointed out that in Israel there are hundreds of political prisoners who are now in grave danger after a psychiatrist and a prison guard tested positive for the coronavirus.

In Egypt, tens of thousands of political prisoners are held in tight confinement in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, deprived of their most basic rights.