BHRC welcomes and supports the statement issued today by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, calling on governments to “take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities” as part of efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Bachelet also called on governments to “release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views”.

It was further confirmed that the UN Human Rights Office and the World Health Organization are due this week to issue interim guidance focusing on persons deprived of their liberty and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, BHRC joined the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), MENA Rights Group, and 37 organisations from around the world calling on governments in the Middle East and North Africa to take a number of urgent measures to protect their prison populations, and in doing so, their populations as a whole.

These included making country and facility-specific policies and guidance available to the public, measures to reduce the prison population, and ensuring the fundamental rights of those detained during the pandemic, which were echoed in the statement by Ms Bachelet today.

The joint statement by NGOs also called on international and regional bodies, including the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations special procedures, to issue guidance around detention amid the pandemic.

The statement by NGOs is available in English, Arabic and French: