Angola’s Overzealous Arrest Policy Threatens a Prison Pandemic

Angola’s crowded prisons pose a particular challenge to limiting the spread of COVID-19 – and the authorities know it.

The country has so far recorded two deaths from COVID-19 and declared a state of emergency on 27th March. Attorney General Hélder Pitta Gróz swiftly signed off on the release of 1877 inmates from pre-trial detention in a bid to limit the spread. The trouble is, Angolan police continue to arrest citizens en masse for nonviolent offences, including  295 people detained in the space of just 24 hours, for breaking lockdown rules.

Not only is this approach heavy-handed, it’s counterproductive. As Interior Minister Eugénio César Laborinho pointed out at the beginning of April, Angola’s prisons lack the capacity to properly quarantine new arrivals. Bringing hundreds of people from the outside into already over-loaded prisons, without testing them, is extremely high-risk from the point of view of controlling the virus.

Currently, around 25,000 people are incarcerated in Angola. Human Rights Watch claims that many have been imprisoned for nonviolent, low-level offences, or for engaging in peaceful protest.


Lead Photo: View of Luanda, Angola’s capital city by Emmanuel Zua