30 March 2020
Dmitry Makarov, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
The Moscow Helsinki Group calls on Russian authorities to take urgent measures to counteract the high probability of an outbreak of COVID-19 in detention facilities. Such measures could consist of a broad amnesty or other forms of releasing the most vulnerable groups. In a time of pandemic, those confined in prisons and isolation cells are unequivocally a risk category. Overcrowding, poor medical services, and weakened immunity are additional risk factors, and “social distancing” is impossible. A maximal decongestion of prisons is not just a humanitarian, but also a logical, urgent step in such a situation, a step which has already been taken by several other countries, from Iran and India to the U.S. and Sudan. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has already made similar recommendations. It’s time for Russian authorities to listen to them. That is the message of this appeal of the Moscow Helsinki Group’s board, which has been joined by other human rights groups on this matter.
Translated by Mark Nuckols