Amnesty calls for release of Syrian prisoners to curb spread of COVID-19

The Syrian authorities must cooperate fully with UN agencies and humanitarian organizations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s prisons, detention centers and military hospitals, Amnesty International has warned.

Prisoners and detainees, including tens of thousands of people arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared, are at risk of contracting the disease as they are held in unhygienic conditions in locations across the country operated by the country’s security forces.

“In Syrian prisons and detention centers, COVID-19 could spread quickly due to poor sanitation, lack of access to clean water and severe overcrowding”, said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.

“This government has a long record of denying prisoners and detainees the medical care and medicines that they urgently need. Anyone detained must have access to prevention and treatment services as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens lives.

“All prisoners of conscience – political activists, human rights defenders, and others imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights – must be immediately and unconditionally released. The early or conditional release of prisoners at high risk, such as older prisoners or those with serious medical conditions, should also be considered.”

As of March 30, the Syrian Ministry of Health had acknowledged a total of 10 cases of COVID-19 in the country and one death.

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