Russia: Authorities urged to protect half a million prison population in face of COVID-19

Originally published by Amnesty International on 30/03/2020


This article calls on Russian authorities to take measures to address the potentially devastating consequences of COVID-19 spreading among prisoners and detainees. The article offers the suggestion that Russian authorities should consider releases – especially releases of pre-trial detainees. According to the latest available data, almost 97,000 detainees (or 18.7% of Russia’s prison population) are held in pre-trial detention, where conditions, often overcrowded, are more hazardous in the face of COVID-19. Furthermore, pre-trial detainees now face longer periods in detention as all trials have now been suspended. The article calls for an urgent and genuine review of all decisions to remand criminal suspects in detention in order to ensure that such measure is proportional to the crime that is alleged.Finally, the article notes that Russian prisoner transportation must improve in order to mitigate the effects and spread of COVID-19. Prisoner transportation often results in individuals packed inside confined and poorly ventilated train compartments, without light, running water or sanitary facilities. Due to the distances involved in transporting prisoners hundreds of miles to remote penal colonies, some may spend weeks in these conditions that are extremely hazardous to prisoner health, especially with COVID-19.

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