(New York) – Many countries around the world monitor and do not monitor Covid-19 infection, death and mitigation efforts in detention environments, health and human rights experts said in a new opinion. UN agencies such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which have mandates to promote health and human rights and improve prison health, should provide technical assistance and make Covid-19 reporting mandatory and public to ensure transparency. and accountability.
WHO convenes public hearings on 12 April 2022 – only the second time in its history – to seek input on a proposed treaty on pandemic preparedness and response. As negotiations against a “pandemic treaty” progress, they should include discussion of governments’ human rights obligations to collect and report data on cases among the most vulnerable and those in government custody.
“The World Health Organization has spearheaded global reporting of Covid-19 cases and deaths, but has not pressured countries to investigate and report information on Covid-19 in detention,” he said. Joe Amon, Human Rights Watch Consultant and Global Health Professor at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “Data transparency and accuracy are the first steps towards effective responses and the protection of fundamental rights, and the World Health Organization has a mandate to make that happen both now and in future health crises.”
Governments have obligations related to transparency, including collecting and providing access to information that can guide the policies needed to protect the right to health. But global implementation of any basic reporting practice during the Covid-19 pandemic has been piecemeal at best, experts said. Only between April 2020 and August 2021 18 member states submitted a report to the WHO on the status of Covid-19 in their prisons. These reports remain unpublished.
UNODC has a mandate to help countries “build and reform their prison systems … in accordance with human rights principles,” and has provided states with a voluntary checklist to assess prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners. But it has not done much to support countries or to ensure the protection of detainees.
UNODC has no information on the number of cases and deaths due to Covid-19 in worldwide detention and has offered little guidance on preventing transmission. In its latest guide on Covid-19used the organization data from Justice Project Pakistana non-profit organization based in Lahore, which gathered information about Covid-19 in prisons worldwide from government figures, leaks and media reports.
governments have an obligation to provide medical care to prisoners at least equivalent to that available to the general population. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that “[s]States are obliged to respect the right to health by among otherto refrain from denying or restricting equal access for all persons, including prisoners or detainees, minorities, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, to preventive, curative and palliative health services. “The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that governments have a” stricter duty to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty. “This is because when detaining people,” the government assumes[s] responsibility to take care of their lives. “
In his introductory remarks during the public hearings on the Pandemic Treaty, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The inequalities we have faced over the last two years – for therapeutic agents, diagnostics and vaccines – have undermined our efforts to bring Covid-19 under control.” Without transparent and accurate data on Covid-19 in prisons, these gaps in who lives and dies of Covid-19 will only continue to grow, Human Rights Watch said.
“Call to action by the beginning of the pandemic “Protecting against the spread of the Covid-19 virus in prisons was largely ignored, potentially leading to preventable infections and deaths,” said Edwin Cameron, South Africa’s prison inspector. “Over two years later, governments should be transparent about Covid-19 in detention centers, and the WHO should ensure that governments do so now and through any future pandemic treaty.”