Julian Assange and Catalan political prisoners lead collective letter to the UN over the situation in prisons during the Covid-19 pandemic

Among the signatories are the Catalan political prisoners, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and activists imprisoned in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Morocco and Western Sahara.

Around thirty political prisoners from different territories around the world have sent a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, with the purpose of denouncing their situation of imprisonment during the Coronavirus crisis, after international institutions and organizations such as the Council of Europe, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch recommended reducing the population in prisons due to  the high risk  of spreading  the disease.

In late March, the High Commissioner herself called on governments to take urgent measures to protect the health and safety of people imprisoned or detained in other facilities, as part of efforts to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the elderly, the sick, “each and every person who is imprisoned without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained for having expressed critical or dissenting opinions,” as well as low-risk prisoners.

In the letter, the political prisoners express their concern that “many states are not complying with their recommendations” and that, as Bachelet put it, “keeping prisoners in detention during this pandemic carries a high risk for their lives and health”, especially given “the lack of hygiene, health resources and overcrowding in prisons and detention centers” in most of their countries. According to the signatories, the danger not only comes from the risk of outbreaks, but also from the “repression against the protests that some prisoners have carried out in different detention centers.”

Political prisoners from all corners of the world

Among the signatories are the imprisoned Catalan civic and political leaders, such as the former President of the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Sánchez; the President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart; the former  Vice-President of the Catalan government Oriol Junqueras, the former  Speaker of the Parliament of Catalonia and former President of the Catalan National Assembly Carme Forcadell, and   former Ministers Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Dolors Bassa, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull; as well as but also Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently under extradition trial at the UK under harsh conditions. The Catalan National Assembly, together with other Catalan organizations, organized a massive rally in favour of Assange’s freedom in late February of 2020.

Further signatories are the leader of the Popular Movement of the Rif, Nasser Zefzafi, the activist Mahfouda Bamba Lefkir and the journalist Bachir Mahdar Khada from Western Sahara, Bernado Caal Xol, indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi defender (Guatemala), activists such as Milagro Sala and Luis D’Elía from Argentina; Julian Andres Gil Reyes, Jose Vicente Murillo and Jorge Enrique Niño from the Congreso de los Pueblos of Colombia and the representatives of the Defensores del agua, el ambiente y el territorio de Guapinol (Honduras), Jeremías Martínez, Porfirio Sorto Cedillo, Ewer Alexander Cedillo, José Daniel Márquez, Kelvin Romero, José Abelino Cedillo, Arnold Alemán Soriano and Orbin Hernández Hernández.