Libya: Government of National Accord Frees 466 Prisoners To Prevent Spread Of COVID-19
The Libya government has announced the release of more than 466 prisoners as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, reported The Middle East Monitor.
“The Public Prosecution has issued a decision to release 466 inmates from the correction and rehabilitation institutions within the branch of the Judicial Police in Tripoli,” the Ministry of Justice of the internationally-recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) announced in a statement.
As per the statement, the detainees were in pre-trial detention or had qualified for conditional release. It added that other measures aimed at reducing the overpopulation of prisons will follow, including amnesty for elderly or ill prisoners and those who have served over half their sentences.
Libya reported its first case last Tuesday, a 73-year-old man who had returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia in early March. Five cases have also been recorded in the western city of Misrata.
The justice ministry’s move was applauded by the Human Rights Watch. The international rights body called the step as the country’s positive first step to curb the spread of coronavirus. However, it said that the government should take more steps to mitigate the risks of a major COVID-19 outbreak.
Libyan authorities “need to be prepared to limit the spread of the virus in overcrowded detention facilities and shelters for displaced people,” HRW said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch, warned that Libya’s health care system, along with other public services, is not equipped with advanced health care technology to cope with a large number of coronavirus patients.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic spreads in Libya, the country’s health care system won’t be able to cope with large numbers of patients,” Salah said.
She added that Libya’s preparations need to include plans to protect and care for everyone, including vulnerable populations like those in custody or displaced person shelters.