Thu, October 28, 2021

in-focus

Amnesty urges Justice Ministry, Supreme Court to minimise ‘unnecessary custody’ during Covid crisis


An open letter from Amnesty International Thailand to the Justice Ministry and the Office of the Supreme Court President: Prison inmates deserve enhanced treatment during the pandemic and unnecessary custody should be minimised.

Amnesty International Thailand conducts policy campaigns and raises awareness on human rights with the Thai government, civil society organisations and general public who are interested in civil rights and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Our activities include public discussions and lecture-based education, among others, to promote human rights principles in the long run.

Amnesty International Thailand has been observing the prosecution of protest leaders and participants in public assemblies for the past two years. According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 635 individuals in 301 cases have been prosecuted from participating in political assemblies from July 2020 until April 2021. Of this number, 18 had been denied bail during police investigations and after their indictment pending trials in court and appeals against their sentencing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged public health and livelihoods into a crisis, particularly of inmates and prisoners in prisons, correctional institutes and other detention facilities throughout the country. This is due to constraints in terms of facilities, prompt access to medical treatment and communication with their families and their legal counsels. Just in 2020, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that at least 100 countries worldwide have made attempts to release more than 600,000 inmates and prisoners to address crowding in prisons. Many of them suffer from health problems.

As you and your organisations have direct mandates and charge to review requests and to take care of inmates and prisoners in such facilities, Amnesty International Thailand commends you for your efforts to implement the practice to minimise unnecessary custody at all levels and to ensure the inmates and prisoners bear the least impact from the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, given the chronic “prison crowdedness” and holding in custody of those exercising their freedom of political expression, at least seven political prisoners have contracted Covid-19 in custody. And according to Corrections Department’s reports, at least 200 inmates and prisoners have been infected with the virus while being incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison, the Narathiwat Provincial Prison and the Chiang Mai Provincial Prison.

Amnesty International Thailand would like to call on the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the President of the Supreme Court of Justice to urgently mete out measures to ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of inmates and prisoners during the pandemic to minimise impact from the Covid-19 pandemic within the prison system and between the prison system and society at large.

A sufficient supply of face masks, soaps and clean water should be provided to inmates and prisoners without charge, and they should be afforded Covid-19 tests urgently. The inmates and prisoners who test positive for Covid-19 should be isolated and given access to effective medical treatment. In addition, efforts should immediately be made to minimise any unnecessary custody at all levels commensurate with the policy of the ministry and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Published : May 13, 2021

By : THE NATION