Network of African National Human Rights Institutions

Commemoration of the Africa Pretrial Detention day in the context of Covid -19

Commemoration of the Africa Pretrial Detention day in the context of Covid -19

Nairobi, Kenya
April 25, 2020

The Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) is a membership organisation of 46 National Human Rights Institutions in Africa (NHRIs). We support the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs in Africa to effectively discharge their human rights mandate as per the Paris Principles.

Today, April 25, 2020, the continent, led by the Network of African NHRIs, is commemorating the African Pre-trial Detention Day. Members of the Network of African NHRIs have been commemorating this day after the adoption of the Yaoundé Declaration1 on October 23, 2015 during the 10th Biennial Conference held in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The Declaration was preceded by the adoption of the Guidelines on Arrest, Police Custody and Pretrial Detention, also known as the Luanda Guidelines, by the African Union
Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2014.

This fifth commemoration of the Africa Pretrial Detention Day happens when the globe is struggling to contain the novel Corona virus (Covid-19)- a highly infectious disease which emerged in December 2019.

As of April 23, 2020, Africa had reported 26,899 Covid-19 cases, with 7,350 recoveries and 1,265 deaths2.

To combat further spread of this highly contagious disease, movement restriction measures have been put in place, with social distancing and personal hygiene being at the top of the list. In the practice of social distancing, governments have instituted curfews, states of emergency, and lockdowns. Suspected cases of Covid-19 have been isolated or quarantined. This has, however, been abused by security agents, who have beaten and tortured those found to be in violation of the movement restriction measures, with more others being treated as suspects for Covid-19 cases, therefore, forcefully quarantined.

In line with these measures, visiting of prisons and detention areas have been suspended to prevent the spread of the virus into these facilities. This is, is however, not a lasting solution as most prisons and detentions in Africa remain congested.

The congestion is further exacerbated by petty offenders and pretrial detainees. In Africa, there are at least 296,0983 pre-trial detainees. Some of them have been under detention for months, and even years without trial or their cases are dragging in courts. Some of those in this situation are petty offenders at a time when most of these facilities are holding more than three times their recommended capacity.