Call for release of prisoners grows
Demands for the release of detainees living in unsanitary conditions increase, as death toll from Covid-19 continues to rise across the region
The increasing number of coronavirus cases across the Middle East has sparked a wave of demands for prisoners across the region to be released from unsanitary and cramped detention centres, where the threat of virus contagion is rife.
Online, hashtags have been shared to raise awareness of the plight of prisoners in unhygienic conditions, a concern shared by human rights organisations, which have also been drawing attention to the vulnerability of prisoners.
Middle East Eye takes a look at several countries in the region where the issue has come to the fore.
Bahrain recently released a “significant portion” of its prison population as the country tries to contain the outbreak of coronavirus. However, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) has highlighted that many “prominent political leaders and human rights defenders” have been excluded from this policy and remain behind bars.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the London-based activist group, said there had been no transparency on the part of the government regarding the identities of those released, and that the majority of those freed seemed to be foreign nationals and Bahrainis held for criminal offences.
“By excluding prominent human rights activists, as well as vulnerable inmates and those declared arbitrarily detained, the government has missed valuable opportunity to demonstrate compassion during an unprecedented international pandemic,” Alwadaei said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Last week, Bahrain announced that 901 prisoners would be granted a royal pardon “for humanitarian reasons” during the coronavirus outbreak, while the ministry of interior further announced that 585 prisoners would be granted alternative sentences.
The Ministry of Interior confirmed on Wednesday that the release of prisoners had been completed.
In Egypt, the hashtag “release the prisoners” (#خرجوا_المساجين) is trending, with activists and social media users using it to highlight the plight of the country’s thousands of political prisoners, as well as the unsanitary conditions they are living in.