• Urgent Action

Urgent Action Update: Prisoners Across Pakistan at Risk of COVID-19 (Pakistan: UA 39.20)

April 3, 2020

An inmate at Camp Jail, with a prison population of 3,500 people, in the provincial capital Lahore tested positive for coronavirus before being transferred to a medical facility. However, even as provincial high courts issued directives to release vulnerable, under-trial and elderly prisoners, the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended all bail orders. Prisons in Pakistan face massive overcrowding (jails in Pakistan have a capacity of 57,742 but currently house 77,275 inmates), with limited hygiene supplies and insufficient access to healthcare. Forcing inmates to practice social distancing would be impossible, given the overcrowding, drastically increasing the potential for the virus to spread. Pakistani authorities must protect the health of all prisoners and should urgently consider measures to reduce the prison population. Should the government fail to act now, Pakistani prisons and detention centers could become hotspots for the transmission of coronavirus.

  1. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
  2. Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 39.20. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.
Honorable Mr Arif Alvi President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan President’s Secretariat Islamabad, Pakistan Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan Embassy of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan 3517 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008 Phone: 202 243 6500 I Fax: 202 686 1534 Email: [email protected] Twitter: @PakEmbassyDC Facebook: @PakistanEmbassyDC Contact Form: https://bit.ly/2QiCMnI Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear President Arif Alvi, I am writing out of concern for prisoners in Pakistan who must be protected from the COVID-19 outbreak. I am alarmed that a prisoner at the Lahore Camp Jail, with a prison population of 3,500 people, tested positive for the virus on 24 March and all bail orders now stand suspended. Jails in Punjab are worryingly overcrowded, meaning social distancing is not an option for prisoners. Unsanitary conditions mean that preventative steps such as washing hands are harder to follow. The right to health is guaranteed under several human rights treaties. Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) includes the “prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases” as a part of the right to health. In the context of a spreading epidemic, this includes the obligation on states to ensure that preventive care, goods, services and information are available and accessible to all persons. Should the government fail to act now, Pakistani prisons and detention centers could quickly become hotspots for the transmission of coronavirus. I urge you to release immediately and unconditionally all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights; consider if the outbreak qualifies certain prisoners for parole or early release, especially older detainees who no longer pose a threat to the public; an ensure that all prisoners enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, including when it comes to testing, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Yours sincerely, ADDITIONAL RESOURCES