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Human rights organizations call for the urgent reduction of the number of inmates incarcerated by Israel: prison conditions make it impossible to follow the Ministry of Health corona protection guidelines; the lives of many are at stake

On March 19, 2020, six human rights organizations sent the Minister of Public Security, the Attorney General and the Head of the Amnesty Department at the Ministry of Justice, a letter regarding the reduction of the inmate population in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations – Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Committee Against Torture in Israel, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and Al Mezan Center For Human Rights – requested that immediate steps be taken to reduce to the minimum the number of prisoners and detainees held in Israel in order to protect their health during the pandemic. The organizations cautioned that otherwise, the population of inmates would face a high risk of contamination and even a threat to life in some cases. This, due to the fact that thousands of this population are chronically ill and hundreds are old. With regards to the most vulnerable groups of inmates, the organizations stressed, maximum protection must be provided, either by their release or by adapting their incarceration conditions to minimize the threat of transmission.

The organizations clarified that the unique environment created by incarceration conditions, foremost among them the overcrowding and insufficient ventilation, make it impossible to maintain the Health Ministry’s guidelines intended to prevent contamination. Reducing the number of inmates – by releasing migrants and asylum seekers, administrative release, extended vacations, house arrest and so on – would enable the Israel Prison Service to prepare many isolation spaces for those who would require it once the virus spreads in the prisons.

Reducing the number of inmates is of cardinal importance and constitutes a moral, legal and public-health obligation of the authorities at this time. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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