African govts urged to decongest prisons

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prisoners at Harare central prison yesterday

THE newly-formed International Coalition Against Coronavirus for Africa (ICAC), which cuts across southern, west and central Africa, has called for decongestion of prison facilities on the continent to curb the spread of coronavirus among inmates.

BY SILAS NKALA

ICAC president Toure Moussa Zeguen and his fourth vice-president Maxwell Vuma Mkandla (Zimbabwe) yesterday called on all African countries to urgently decongest prisons to avoid contagion and deaths.

“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, international institutions and health experts have predicted carnage in Africa. The ICAC, aware of the situation of prison overcrowding in Africa … is concerned about the fate of our fellow citizens, brothers and sisters detained in remand and correctional facilities,” Zeguen said.

“We invite the African authorities at the highest level to take action and emergency measures to take into account the recommendations of the United Nations requesting the relief of congestion on the basis of vulnerability criteria such as age, state of health (hypertensive, diabetic, asthmatic and pregnant women) etc.”

He said many governments across the African continent had remained silent on the scourge.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa had targeted to pardon 5 000 inmates under Clemency Order No 1 of 2020 in March, but below 2 000 met the criteria.

Zimbabwe’s correctional facilities then had about 22 000 inmates against a holding capacity of 17 000.
Mkandla hailed Mnangagwa for recently releasing 2 000 prisoners to ease congestion at the correctional centres.

ICAC petitioned governments to release prisoners, including children and their mothers, those with disabilities, political prisoners, minor crimes and long-term prisoners (more than three years) without trial or final decision.

“For countries at war where belligerents detain prisoners of war, the ICAC demands the outright release of hostages and prisoners of war because they are not condemned to death,” Zeguen said.

“The ICAC invites the COVID-19 coalitions to initiate without delay national petitions demanding the immediate release of prisoners on the conditions indicated and listed by the UN and the ICAC in order to raise awareness of the serious risks that we let us all run by neglecting a situation as critical as that of the generally overcrowded prisons in Africa and elsewhere.’

Coronavirus has been spreading among inmates and officers in correctional facilities in the United Kingdom and the United States, among other countries, due to overcrowding.

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