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African Centre: Sudan must do more to protect detainees from COVID-19

September 3 - 2021 NEW YORK
A detention cell in Sudan (file photo).
A detention cell in Sudan (file photo).

The Sudanese government must urgently develop a comprehensive plan to prevent and respond to a COVID-19 outbreak in detention facilities across the country, says the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS).

The COVID-19 pandemic “has placed a light on the urgent necessity to reform the penitentiary system in Sudan,” the New York based NGO stated in an alert on Thursday.

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to guarantee the Right to Health Care in detention facilities. Overcrowded conditions that may be unhygienic and poorly ventilated, together with stressful environments and, in some cases, the poor nutritional status of individuals, can make COVID-19 an even more dangerous disease for people in prison,” the alert reads.

“ACJPS monitoring reports indicate that prisons are overcrowded, making physical distancing, one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, nearly impossible. They are unsanitary with inadequate medical facilities. They lack adequate professional health practitioners without necessary medical equipment, personal protective gear, infrared thermometers, testing kits, and sanitisers.”

The government has not done much so far to improve the situation, ACJPS says. “The only effort to protect detainees has been the release of 4,633 prisoners from overcrowded prisons all over the country, hosting more than 21,000 detainees. UNICEF reported that 883 children were also released from reformatory centres across the country.”

On 30 August, the World Organisation Against Torture and ACJPS called on the Sudanese authorities to take all the appropriate measures to improve the conditions of detention particularly because of the dire situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

Apart from reviewing the conditions of detention centres across the country, the authorities should come up with an urgent health plan and adopt the guidelines of the World Health Organization to prevent and control COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention. Furthermore, mass vaccinations should take place in all detention facilities.

According to the WHO, Sudan has registered 37,708 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2,791 deaths as of 30 August. Sudan has documented a number of COVID-19 cases in detention centres across the country. 829,682 vaccines administered so far do not include people in detention. Several prisoners including Shareef Omar Badr, the leader of Omar Al Bashir’s ousted National Congress Party, have succumbed to the pandemic.


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