Suggested Guidelines For Action Related To The Covid19 Pandemic
We stand ready to support and respectfully share the following policies to help achieve our common goals:
Practice Community-Centred Policing to Fight the Public Health Emergency
- Issue warnings or reprimands to persons in violation of lockdowns or curfews, avoid use of excessive force, treat the population with compassion and care, and use the power of arrest only as a last resort for repeat offenders and persons refusing to comply with the directives of law enforcement agencies.
- Support and orient internal and external migrants to protect individual and public health consistent with international mandates;
- Adopt a general policy of avoiding or deferring arrest and prosecution in minor matters so as to avoid overwhelming detention and court systems and to preserve resources to protect public health.
Decongest detention facilities and prisons
- Facilitate the release on free bail of accused persons charged with non-violent and minor offences so as to decongest remand prisons,
- Review all existing cases of pre-trial detention, extending the use of bail for all but the most serious cases, and review reporting conditions for accused persons on bail so as to minimize movement and congestion at police station
- Implement pre-trial diversion programs aimed at providing non-custodial sentences to first time offenders, juveniles, and those with heightened risk of illness from COVID-19 including the elderly and those who possess a chronic health condition.
- Implement schemes of early, provisional or temporary release or parole of already sentenced low-risk offenders. This may include the use of amnesty or pardon powers to release sentenced incarcerated people, prioritizing the medically vulnerable and the aged, but also extending to the general population who have served more than 50% of their sentences in order to thwart transmission within facilities, to those who work there, and their communities.
- To reduce risk to detainees, facility staff and their families, authorities can implement more rigorous sanitary procedures and physical distancing, screening processes, and segregation of new detainees and those who fall ill.
- Extend all above policies to those in youth detention or training facilities, immigration detention, and closed refugee camps [Advice of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to States Parties]
Preserve Courts as Protectors of Justice
- Maintain access to courts to safeguard the fundamental human rights of suspects and accused persons, while maintaining protections for public safety.
- Continue to hold all critical hearings, including remand hearings, bail/bond applications, habeas corpus hearings, and dispositions of criminal cases. Deadlines for filing of appeals and revisions should be extended or suspended during the crisis. Non-essential matters can be adjourned or held through teleconferencing technologies.
- Employ non-custodial sanctions in the form of fines, citations or infringement notices for persons found in violation of curfews or having committed minor nonviolent offences as means of avoiding populating police cells and pre-trial detention facilities
- Uphold the right to legal representation provided for under Article 14 of the ICCPR and allow legal practitioners to travel and attend to arrested and detained persons whilst complying with WHO safety guidelines and precautionary measures, even during periods of lockdown or curfews. The accused (through their lawyer) should be provided an opportunity to be heard on matters they deem to be essential.
- Utilize teleconferencing technologies to ensure court processes are conducted virtually so as to minimize human interaction whilst expediting processes especially in bail hearings.