UN experts urge Belarus to release children and young people jailed for drug offences amid COVID-19 crisis
The soaring number of COVID-19 cases in Belarus should compel the Government to immediately release children and young people imprisoned for drug-related offences, UN human rights experts said on May 7.
“The Government of Belarus must take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention, in particular of children and young people convicted to disproportionately long prison terms – up to 12 years – for drug-related offences,” they said.
The experts reiterated that children should be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth, which takes into account the child's age and the desirability of promoting the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society.
The experts called on the Belarus authorities “to avoid by all means the detention of children, to release those who do not pose a threat to society, and to develop models and responses alternative to detention, which is especially necessary in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The Government should apply a proposed amnesty law to all people convicted of drug-related offences, notably children and young people,” they advised.
“Even though children seem to have milder symptoms and lower mortality rates than adults, given their precarious health conditions in detention facilities and lack of access to quality healthcare, they are at great risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19,” the experts said.
While Belarus has not applied comprehensive physical distancing measures, the number of cases of COVID-19 exponentially increases every day and already tops 17,000.
The experts: The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Chair), Leigh Toomey (Vice-Chair), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Seong-Phil Hong and Sètondji Roland Adjovi.