Kuwait: Covid-19 spreads in prisons, infecting hundreds of prisoners

28.04.21

Reliable reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirm that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading through the Kuwaiti prison system among inmates, including a number of prisoners of conscience, who are suffering from a lack of appropriate medical care. Despite the spread of the disease, the competent authorities refuse to take decisive action to protect the health of all prisoners.

The prison sector consists of 6 buildings: the central prison system (3 buildings) dedicated to criminal cases, with sentences ranging from 5 years to the death penalty, the general prison for those convicted in misdemeanor cases of 3 years or less, and the prison for women designated for those convicted in cases of felony and misdemeanor in its various forms.

In the Central Prison (3) , there were two waves of Covid-19 resulting in a large number of infections. Reports indicate that all areas of the prison are now affected by the virus.

Reliable information also confirmed that the virus had spread through an entire wing in the General Prison, resulting in 117 cases among inmates.

GCHR has also received information about the situation in other prisons, where Covid-19 has spread in three wings, infecting more than 200 inmates in Central Peison (1). Central Prison (4) also has the virus spreading among its inmates.

There are no official reports on the situation inside the Central Prison (2) due to the secrecy of the authorities, despite the prevailing belief that there is definitely illness there.

Earlier last year, the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior confirmed, in a statement, that the virus had spread in the women's prison and had infected a female police officer, as well as many inmates. Recent reports confirmed the existence of new cases of the virus in this prison as well, but the authorities do not provide accurate statistics.

The male and female inmates, whose numbers are believed to be several thousand, asked prison officials to transfer them to appropriate isolation in medical wards, but officials reportedly refused to do so, arguing that the virus had spread throughout the prisons, and that there was no need for isolation, and instead the administration locked up the inmates in the infected wings.

At the beginning of the pandemic, in a statement issued on 25 March 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed "grave concern about overcrowding in prisons as many people are kept in unclean and unsanitary conditions, which may be the cause of a wider spread of the Coronavirus." She called for “the release of the largest possible number of prisoners as a decisive measure to limit the spread of Covid-19 disease.”

GCHR calls on the competent authorities in Kuwait to work in the spirit of the blessed month of Ramadan, and to take advantage of the approaching Eid Al-Fitr, to release all prisoners of conscience, as well as the rest of the prisoners who pose no threat to the public, especially with the spread of Covid-19 in prisons. Prison administrations should also isolate those infected with Covid-19 in special health wards and provide them with appropriate medical treatment according to the appropriate medical protocols. In all cases, the competent authorities must apply the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) in all Kuwaiti prisons, in a manner that guarantees the rights of all prisoners.