Protect detainees in Sub-Saharan Africa against COVID-19

In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, prisons are overcrowded. Prisoners often live in squalid conditions and the healthcare systems inside prisons are extremely poor. The coronavirus pandemic makes detainees particularly vulnerable and at risk. COVID-19 calls for states to quickly solve issues regarding their detention system to avoid turning detention centers to epicenters of the outbreak.

Countries like Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo have already taken several measures to free up space in prisons. However, most of the measures are still insufficient. In addition to them, the authorities should consider freeing people in pre-trial detention and sick or aged people as well as human rights defenders, journalists and activists detained for simply exercising their rights.

Pre-trial detainees constitute around 50% to 90% of total prison population of most countries in the continent. Prison systems suffer from many systemic problems that will worsen with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Living conditions in prisons are dire and mostly unsanitary. Tuberculosis is present in many detention centers as well as HIV/AIDS. Medicines are a scarce resource and access to doctors or nurses is difficult.

There are already hundreds of COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa prisons. In Cameroon, Guinea or South Africa, the detention centers are quickly becoming epicenters of the pandemic.

Please join our members and supporters in calling for Heads of States in Sub-Saharan Africa to take the adequate and proportional measures to free vulnerable and at-risk detainees.

Send an email to the authorities of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Togo to demand that:

  • All those arbitrarily detained and those in administrative detention are immediately and unconditionally released.
  • People held in pre-trial detention and children as well as women and girls who are in detention with dependent children or who are pregnant are released or alternatives to detention be found when applicable to their cases.
  • Older people, inmates with underlying health conditions and prisoners convicted of minor and non-violent offences are considered for early, temporary or conditional release.
  • Those who remain in detention are provided with a standard of healthcare that meets each person's individual needs similar to those available in the community, and that ensures the maximum possible protection against the spread of COVID-19.