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Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Advice of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to States Parties and
National Preventive Mechanisms relating to the Coronavirus Pandemic
(adopted on 25th March 2020)

I.

Introduction
1.

Within the space of a few short weeks, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a profound
impact on daily life, with many facing imposing severe restrictions upon personal
movement and personal freedoms to enable the authorities to better combat the
pandemic through public health emergency measures.

2.

Persons deprived of their liberty comprise a particularly vulnerable group owing to the
nature of the restrictions which are already placed upon them and their limited capacity
to take precautionary measures. Within prisons and other detention settings, many of
which are severely overcrowded and insanitary, there are also increasingly acute
problems.

3.

In several countries measures taken to combat the pandemic in places of deprivation of
liberty have already led to disturbances both inside and outside of detention facilities,
and to the loss of life. Against this background, it is essential that State authorities take
full account of all the rights of person deprived of liberty and their families and
detention and healthcare staff when taking measures to combat the pandemic.

4.

Measures taken to help address the risk to detainees and to staff in places of detention
should reflect the approaches set out in this Advice, and in particular the principles of
‘do no harm’ and ‘equivalence of care’. It is also important that there is transparent
communication to all persons deprived of liberty, their families and the media
concerning the measures being taken and the reasons for them.

5.

The prohibition of torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment cannot
be derogated from, even during exceptional circumstances and emergencies which
threaten the life of the nation.1 The SPT has already issued guidance confirming that
formal places of quarantine fall within the OPCAT mandate. 2 It inexorably follows that

1 See

UNCAT, Article 2(2) and ICCPR, Articles 4 and 7.
of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to the National Preventive Mechanism of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland regarding compulsory quarantine for
2 Advice

Select target paragraph3