Cyprus Mail

Why are no measures being taken to protect prisoners?

All states in the world are taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in public places and densely populated areas. But the Republic of Cyprus practices the opposite in its only detention centre, located in Nicosia.

Instead of implementing the government’s recommendations or preventive measures, the management applies the over-concentration of its prison population without any measures to either eradicate or break any spread. While prisoners are inactive, sanitization of walls and floors by spraying could be implemented immediately.

Systematic diagnosis should also be applied, while it Is currently only done for incoming staff. People awaiting trial, while being presumed innocent at this stage and with an address on the island, could be released, relieving prison density and the risk of infection.

The new internal policy forbids any visit from family members and even lawyers, although no single rule of physical distancing within the population of detainees nor segmentation of them according to factors of risk of infection like age or medical background is applied.

Mathematically, and given the daily figures, the contamination risk is exponential. Exceptional situation requires exceptional actions, that is:

  • to retrieve all detainees that haven’t been judged yet from the detention center, and put them in separate areas or house arrests.
  • To separate detainees that are all in the same cell, and assign a single cell per detainee. This, aimed at lowering the risk of contamination in one of the country’s places of highest human density, and where many detainees are refugees, jailed on a daily basis, from countries where the pandemic has not been taken seriously into consideration, like Iran. Many detainees share a 9 square meter cell with another two, meals are taken hundred by hundred in confined rooms, whereas, outside the prison, the national instructions forbid gatherings in restaurants and bars.

Despite the many attempts of several embassies to protect their nationals jailed in Cyprus by prompting systematic diagnoses of the detainees in prisons and enforcement of the distancing instructions on regular citizens, these are systematically refused and most of the time, not even examined.

One can only question the cruel negligence of the Ministry of Justice that brings to contaminate all detainees by the Covid-19 and thus, justifying a second imprisonment by isolation and death sentence by coronavirus.


Joseph Ghebali

A detainee from the Central Prison of Nicosia

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