Protect detainees from Covid-19, NGO tells home ministry

PETALING JAYA: An NGO focused on stopping abuse and deaths in custody is urging the home ministry to implement measures to protect detainees from the Covid-19 pandemic, including cleaning and sanitising detention facilities nationwide.

Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT) said a coroner’s inquests in recent months had revealed wretched conditions at lock-ups in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

This included insufficient drinking water, detainees living in close quarters in “overcrowded, poorly ventilated cells”, and a lack of medical attention.

In a statement, EDICT said the same conditions would likely be found in other lock-ups around the country, as well as immigration detention centres and prisons.

It urged the home ministry to initiate cleaning, sanitation and housekeeping for all detention facilities on an urgent basis.

It added that potential detainees should be tested for Covid-19 and admitted only if their results are negative.

“We remind the home minister that there is clear evidence of serious failings which threaten the health and welfare of officers and detainees.

“We urge him to take prompt action,” it said.

It also suggested that the authorities establish stricter criteria for evidence before detaining people to reduce overcrowding in lock-ups.

It additionally urged the ministry to fix broken ventilation systems and provide adequate water, as well as to ensure that detainees have access to urgent medical attention.

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