Spain Must Protect the Rights and Health of People in Prison

Coronavirus is having a massive impact on the health and detainees in Spain. Dozens of organizations have expressed their concern in a document they presented to the authorities.

Following an initiative by the Human Rights Asociation of Andaucía (ADPHA), a host of organizations, including Rights International Spain, have sent a document expressing their concern to the Ministry of the Interior and the General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions. They highlight the need "to adopt urgent measures to prevent, on the one hand, the spread of coronavirus within prisons and, on the other, to guarantee the fundamental rights of those deprived of their liberty".

The most vulnerable should be released

The text calls for "a series of urgent measures to ensure the fundamental rights of people deprived of their liberty" and provides a reminder that the "inadequate medical service within prisons can amount to inhuman or degrading treatment". They point out that "there may be situations in which the correct administration of criminal justice requires the adoption of humanitarian measures such as release or house arrest". The organizations point out that "our legal system, for example, has alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty in prison for those who are ill or elderly".

More medical staff needed

It is also of vital importance to "urgently reinforce the number of medical staff in prison", and to "ensure that people affected by coronavirus are isolated in a medical facility rather than in a cell". Likewise, they call for "the immediate release of seriously ill inmates and those over 70 years of age as they constitute a double risk group" and also for detainees in pre-trial detention to be released, establishing other forms of controls where necessary. Another of the requests refers to communication between inmates and their families, demanding "free phone calls and an increase in ordinary oral communication".

Video calls needed as all visits are cancelled

The Ministry of Interior earlier announced that it was cancelling all types of communication with prisoners. In response the organisations stated: "we oppose this and request that a system of video calls be installed urgently in all prisons so that detainees can communicate with the people they usually communicate with".