MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA (JORDAN, GAZA, EGYPT, IRAQ AND LEBANON)
In Jordan and the Gaza Strip (Palestine), Tdh has worked (and is continuing to work) with national and local authorities in implementing an emergency release process for children incarcerated in several detention centres and at risk of potential exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of this advocacy and accompanying technical support, 131 children have already been released between 15 March 2020 and 8 April 2020. Individual assessments of cases (children and families) have been supported by Tdh and coordination with competent authorities has been successfully managed to provide distance services (psychological, recreational, and educational) to released children as well as support to their families. Tdh is also supporting previously incarcerated children to better cope with their reintegration into society after their release and to minimize any risks to the reintegration process given the exceptional circumstances caused by COVID-19. Tdh has mobilized funding to provide technological means for detention centres so that children deprived of liberty can access educational and recreational materials and keep contact with their family and lawyers.
In Egypt, Tdh is advocating with the pertinent authorities to initiate an emergency release process of children deprived of liberty. Tdh teams, together with public social workers and detention staff, are exhaustively assessing the cases to be proposed for release and considering all the safety concerns for children and their receiving families, including in relation with reintegration plans during the emergency. In addition, Tdh teams are providing mental health and psychosocial and recreational distance services to children deprived of liberty and providing support services to their families while also providing coaching support and monitoring to the staff in detention facilities.
In Iraq, Tdh has coordinated with different ministries and local organisations to provide children deprived of liberty health-related products to combat the spread of COVID-19 and improve hygiene practices generally. Tdh is also providing mental health and psychosocial support services for detained children and their families, including fostering contact for children with family members and lawyers. So far, 57 children and youth were granted an emergency release from Iraqi prisons. Tdh is working with the competent authorities to coordinate support for those released and their families.
In Lebanon, Tdh is coordinating with authorities and local organisations to support the release of children (so far, 42) from Roumieh prison in conditions that are safe for them and their families as well as advocating for reintegration standards (health, psychosocial, educational, recreational, and legal) for those released and those who will be kept in prison.
AFRICA (BURKINA FASO, MALI, MAURITANIA, GUINEA)
In Burkina Faso, the Tdh team has been supporting the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor’s Office from the early days of the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Tdh has also donated hydro-alcoholic gel, masks, and gloves for the employees of the Public Prosecutor’s Office within the Ministry of Justice. Tdh also met with the deputy public prosecutor in charge of children’s issues, the social worker of the juvenile court, the head of the social service of the Ouagadougou House of Arrest and Correction, and a secretary of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to study the files of detained children and recommend ways to initiate a release process for certain detained children. As a result of these discussions, the public prosecutor issued provisional detention measures allowing some children to be released to their families. In collaboration with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Sentence Enforcement Commission, Tdh is also planning to promote alternative measures to pre-trial detention and substitution of prison sentences for at least 50 young adults in conflict with the law; this action will involve strengthening the capacities of state partners and developing and financing 50 individual action plans for children and young adults in conflict with the law. Tdh plans to improve detention conditions through food donations and hygiene kits as a protective measure against COVID-19. These kits will also benefit prison staff who will be trained on preventive measures against COVID-19. This improvement in conditions will also include the renovation of latrines and water points in three remand prisons. As family visits to prisons are suspended by the prison administration, telephones will be made available to maintain contact between children and young adults in conflict with the law and their families, thereby reducing the anxiety they experience in prison.
In Mali, with the support and the cooperation of Monaco, Tdh quickly assessed the risks incurred for children in pre-trial detention in the BOLLE detention centres in Bamako. Contact was made with the Children’s Court (“TPE”) and the National Directorate of Penitentiary Administration and Supervised Education (“DNAPES”) in order to advocate for their release. Thus, Tdh and its local partner, the Collectif des Centres d’Ecoute Communautaire du Mali (“COCECM”), carried out social and environmental surveys on the detained minors and their families in order to establish a sociological report for each of them. These reports, which were sent to the judges of the Juvenile Court, made it possible to investigate the cases and to decide on non-custodial measures as a matter of urgency. Against all expectations, provisional release measures were quickly ordered for 72 defendants. To support their reintegration, Tdh began by distributing hygiene and food kits to facilitate their physical reintegration process. A Committee for Monitoring and Reintegration of Children in Contact with the Law (“COSURE”) has also been set up under the coordination of Tdh as part of the process of reintegrating minors through individualised monitoring measures. Traditional and community leaders (Imams, Priests, Pastors, Neighbourhood Chiefs, NGO leaders, Cadis, etc.), will be identified by COCECM in the localities where the children live. They will represent a moral guarantee for the rehabilitation of the children released. They will assist the families and accompany them in the follow-up of the children.
In Mauritania, in coordination with UNICEF, Tdh is carrying out advocacy with government authorities to reduce the number of children in detention centres. In coordination with the Mauritanian NGOs, NOURA and AFCF, lawyers are providing legal assistance to process the files of children detained in the detention centres in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The Ministry of Justice has adopted an intervention protocol for social workers relating to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ensure minimum support to children in contact with the law. Thirteen social workers have been specially trained in social intervention related to COVID-19. Hygiene kits were distributed and hand washing stations were set up in police stations for minors and in closed and semi-open detention centres in Nouakchott. 29 juvenile police officers and 4 staff of the Ministry of Justice participated in awareness raising sessions.
In Guinea, despite the official suspension of hearings, in coordination with UNICEF and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (the “OHCHR”), Tdh has been able to advocate to the Minister of Justice and provide detained minors access to provisional and definitive release measures. All the files of children eligible for these measures were studied by the president of the Children’s Court of Conakry in collaboration with Tdh. Training of prison healthcare staff to ensure the care and quarantine of sick inmates as well as protective and hygienic measures for young people still in prison have been put in place. The socio-professional integration of young people leaving prison and the need for a response throughout the country beyond Conakry remain challenges that the Tdh teams are trying to address.
In Burundi, in collaboration with the Directorate General of Penitentiary Administration and the ICRC, Tdh organised an awareness-raising campaign on the risks and protection mechanisms against COVID 19 and define the patient’s path (place of isolation, referral, response, etc.) in the three centres/neighbourhoods for minors in conflict with the law and in the mother/child supervision area of the Ngozi women’s prison (for MCL, mothers-inmates, and supervising staff). Tdh contributed to advocacy actions for the release of minors in order to limit the number of children at risk in the incarceration centres.