Human rights organisations urge government to release prisoners

 | Wed 15 Apr 2020 15:53 ICT

CityiNews – 15th April 2020, a total of 11 national and international human rights organisations have written a letter to Pol Col Naras Savestanan, Director-General, Department of Corrections expressing their gravest concerns over the potentially disastrous impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the prison population and prison staff in Thailand.

Citing the opportunity to immediately begin addressing the long-standing issue of overcrowding in places of detention in Thailand, including prisons as well as immigration detention centres, the group say that Thailand’s current prison occupancy sits at 300% over capacity making the implementation of social distancing and other protective measures aimed at ensuring the health and safety of all persons currently impossible for the 379,190 prisoners (331,405 men and 47,785 women).

Several Asian countries – namely Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Sri Lanka – have already released prisoners from overcrowded places of detention to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the statement. The group therefore urged the colonel to take all the necessary steps to immediately release significant numbers of the following categories of individuals, currently detained for non-serious and/or non-violent offenses:

Prisoners over the age of 60.

Sick prisoners, particularly those with underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer).

Prisoners awaiting trial.

Prisoners sentenced to terms of up to two years.

Prisoners with one year or less left to serve.

Prisoners detained for immigration offenses.

Pregnant women.

All others detained without sufficient legal basis.

Those released from detention facilities should undergo adequate medical screening to ensure they receive, if necessary, proper care and follow-up. They may also be subjected to appropriate non-custodial measures, in line with the principles outlined by the Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the “Tokyo Rules”).

For those who remain in detention, the Department of Corrections must ensure that conditions conform to international standards, such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) and the Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the “Bangkok Rules”). In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, particular emphasis must be placed on the implementation of measures related to accommodation, personal hygiene, and healthcare, including gender-specific healthcare.

Symptomatic prisoners and prison staff should receive COVID-19 testing and, if found positive, receive adequate treatment in hospitals equipped for COVID-19 patients. Protective equipment, such as face masks, clean water, soap, and all other items necessary to maintain personal health, hygiene, and cleanliness, should be made available to all prisoners.

Lastly, following the decision by the Department of Corrections to temporarily suspend all prison visits, the group urges the relevant authorities to ensure that prisoners are able to maintain regular communication with the outside world. As a matter of priority, the Department of Corrections should put in place alternative measures to physical visitation, through regular electronic and telecommunications between prisoners and family members such as video calls, phone calls, and e-mails.

Signed by:

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)

Fairly Tell

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

Fortify Rights

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)

Manushya Foundation

Protection International

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)

Working Group for Political Prisoners (Thailand)