Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that UAE prison authorities should take urgent measures to protect the mental and physical health of prisoners amid reported Covid-19 outbreaks in at least three detention facilities across the country.
The watchdog quoted family members of prisoners in al-Wathba prison near Abu Dhabi, as well as in al-Awir prison and the new al-Barsha detention center in Dubai as saying that prisoners in these facilities have exhibited Covid-19 symptoms or tested positive for the virus.
They said that prisoners, including some with chronic health conditions, have been denied adequate medical care, that overcrowding and unsanitary conditions make social distancing and recommended hygiene practices very difficult, and that authorities are not providing information to prisoners and their families about the apparent outbreaks or precautionary measures, HRW said in a report on Wednesday.
“Crowded, unsanitary prison conditions and widespread denial of adequate medical care are nothing new in the UAE’s notorious detention facilities, but the ongoing pandemic is an additional serious threat to prisoners’ well-being,” said Michael Page, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch.
“The best way for UAE authorities to allay concerns of prisoners’ family members is to allow inspection by independent, international monitors.”
Several family members said they hadn’t been able to communicate with imprisoned relatives for weeks.
Human Rights Watch said it wrote to the UAE interior minister on June 7, 2020 but has received no response.