Three UAE jails hit by coronavirus outbreaks, says HRW

At least three UAE jails hit by coronavirus outbreaks, says Human Rights Watch
2 min read
Families of prisoners held in the UAE have told HRW that inmates are being denied adequate medical care, testing, and basic protections against coronavirus, despite multiple outbreaks in Emirati facilities.
A medical room at Dubai's Al-Awir prison, shown during an official tour [Getty]
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the United Arab Emirates to urgently address an outbreak of the coronavirus in at least three prisons.

The rights group said that relatives of prisoners near Abu Dhabi as well as another in Dubai say that prisoners have been denied adequate medical care and that authorities are not providing information to inmates or their families about the outbreaks of the coronavirus inside the detention centres. They reported overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in the prisons.

Family members say prison authorities transferred those exhibiting symptoms to unknown locations without testing or medical care for weeks. Relatives also said Emirati prison authorities did not increase supplies of soap or hand sanitiser and did not distribute gloves or masks to detainees.

The rights group was also told that authorities have denied prisoners with HIV access to the hospital that is in charge of their care since mid-March.

Human Rights Watch said it wrote to the UAE’s Interior Ministry on June 7 and has received no response. It noted that in April, Emirati authorities released over 4,000 detainees, but not political detainees held for peaceful dissent.

“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, HRW's Middle East deputy director.

“The best way for UAE authorities to allay concerns of prisoners’ family members is to allow inspection by independent, international monitors,” he added.

Page called on the Emirati authorities to be “forthright" about the situation and act quickly in order to reduce the risk posed to prisoners.

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