Coronavirus— UN Warns of Rapid Spread in American Prisons

  • Provisions taken out of fear of contagion have triggered prison riots.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, has since asked for the impartial and thorough investigations into these incidents.
  • The organ of the United Nations also welcomed the measures taken by some countries in the Americas to free detainees classified as most vulnerable.

The United Nations warned today of the rapid spread of cases of covid-19 in prisons on the American continent. They stressed that overcrowding and poor hygiene conditions in most of the prison facilities are a key contributor to the situation. “Thousands of inmates and prison officials have already been infected across North and South America,” said the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland today.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. It replaced the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR) that had been strongly criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.

The official also pointed out that many countries lack basic services, such as the regular provision of food and the prohibition of visits by family members, out of increasing fear of contagion. This has triggered protests and riots in prisons. Colville mentioned, among other cases, the recent riots that were witnessed in the Los Llanos prison in Venezuela, which resulted to the death of 47 prisoners.

He also pointed out last week’s chaotic incidents in the Miguel Castro prison, in Peru, which resulted in the death of nine prisoners. The spokesman also made reference to another 23 prisoners that died in Colombia when security forces intervened to stop a riot in La Modelo prison on 21 March. Other such incidents have been reported in prisons in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Colville added:

“The scale and gravity of the incidents mentioned above seem to indicate that in some cases states have not taken appropriate measures to prevent violence in detention facilities and that state agents may have committed use of force violations in attempts to regain control of these facilities.”

Michelle Bachelet is a Chilean politician who served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, the first woman to occupy the position. After leaving the presidency in 2010 and while not immediately reelectable, she was appointed the first executive director of the newly created United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, has since asked for the impartial and thorough investigations into these incidents. The spokesman also indicated that in some countries on the American continent people are being detained for violation of quarantine measures, which can “increase the risk of infections.” Bachelet called on all States of the region, in particular, to improve the hygiene conditions of prisons and increase access to diagnostic tests.

The organ of the United Nations also welcomed the measures taken by some countries in the Americas to free detainees classified as most vulnerable, such as chronically ill, the elderly, pregnant, and the HIV positive ones. Colville cited the examples of the governments of Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia, which have already conducted selective releases or are having the measures in the pipeline.

Globally, according to a report by the news agency AFP, the pandemic of covid-19 has already killed more than 251,000 people, and infected more than 3.5 million in 195 countries worldwide. More than a million patients have so far been considered cured of the virus. The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus, detected in late December in Wuhan, China.

To combat the pandemic, governments across the world have since sent roughly 4.5 billion people home (more than half the world’s population), ended non-essential trade, and drastically reduced air traffic. It is a move that has paralyzed key sectors of the global economy.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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