By Ali Imran
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari submitted a report in the Supreme Court (SC) pertaining to the release of prisoners, as the coronavirus nationwide tally crossed 2,800 on Sunday.
The report stated that the risk of the virus spreading across prisons was very high due to overcrowding. Infections among incarcerated persons could be problematic due to lack of medical equipment and the training capacity of prison staff. There were over 1,500 senior citizens in prison across the country, the reported further stated, recommending the immediate release of elderly prisoners, differently-abled and those with underlying health concerns.
“As our prisons are not highly equipped to provide care/intervention, it is strongly recommended that elderly, differently-abled and the persons who are underlying health issues be immediately released to comply with the Basic Principle for Treatment of Prisoners (adopted by United Nations General
Assembly resolution) which emphasised the principle 9 that prisoners shall have access to health service available in the country without discrimination on the ground of their legal situation,” the report observed.
Mazari also requested the apex court to allow provincial governments to remit sentences where possible and permitted, under Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The hearing will resume on Monday.
The Ministry of Human Rights has furnished a report to the Supreme Court on the measures it has been taking to contain the spread of the coronavirus among inmates, painting a grim picture of conditions in the country’s overpopulated prisons.
The report stated prisons across Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are packed beyond capacity.
In light of rising cases of the contagion in the country, the ministry said, inmates, aged above 50, have been shifted to separate barracks to protect them from contracting the contagion given their vulnerability to the deadly disease.
The report said Punjab’s 41 prisons house a total of 45,324 inmates, far more than the existing capacity of 32,000.
Sindh’s 24 prisons are too overpopulated with 16,315 prisoners. The total sanctioned strength of the province’s jails is 13,538.
Whereas, the situation in KP’s jails is no different where 9,900 prisoners have been incarcerated in 24 jails which should house 4,519.
However, Balochistan’s prisons with the sanctioned capacity of housing 2,550 inmates have only 2,122 prisoners. The apex court is to take a case with regard to release on bail of under-trial prisoners due to coronavirus tomorrow (Monday).