Pakistani prisoners at high risk of coronavirus infection: Report

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Dec 15, 2020, 12:41 AM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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From April 2020 to August 2020, the prison population increased by more than 6,000 across the country to 79,603

A human rights report released on Monday has slammed Pakistan for its treatment to tens of thousands of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead of freeing prisoners like other countries to risk infection in overcrowded and unsanitary jails, Pakistan has increased the prison population.

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From April 2020 to August 2020, the prison population increased by more than 6,000 across the country to 79,603. 

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Prisoners who were initially freed were later rearrested. 

The joint report was prepared by London-based Amnesty International and Justice Project Pakistan. 

The report said the inmates face a rising threat of infection and urged authorities to renew efforts to free certain prisoners, especially, the elderly, women and those jailed of conscience. 

As the country faces the second wave of the deadly virus, prisoners are still dangerously exposed since the authorities failed to tackle overcrowding and in fact worsened it, said Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia regional campaigner for Amnesty International, as reported by news agency AP.

During the initial outbreak of the virus in February, the Islamabad High Court ordered to free pretrial inmates charged with non-violent crimes as well as those whose bail had been earlier refused. 

As many as 519 prisoners were released on bail in the southern Sindh province, but in late March, the Supreme Court suspended all bail orders that were given due to Covid-19. 

The report said the apex court's decision led to a reverse trend to release prisoners and caused a rearrest of prisoners. 

Sarah Belal, Justice Project Pakistan's executive director said the inmates who were to be freed because of age or time served were also not released.

The women who were convicted or on the trial of petty or minor crimes and were set to be released following Prime Minister Imran Khan's order were also not released, Belal said. 

Pakistan's prisons were dangerously overcrowded before the outbreak struck and it normally jails about 80,000 people out of accommodation of fewer than 58,000 prisoners, according to the World Prison Brief. 

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