Press Release

IACHR grants precautionary measures in favor of migrants detained at Northwest Detention Center in the United States

July 29, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On July 28, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 41/2020, through which it granted precautionary measures in favor of the migrants detained at the Northwest Detention Center (“NWDC”), located in Tacoma, Washington.

The IACHR noted that the beneficiaries were at risk given the alleged lack of sufficient and proper measures to effectively prevent the spread of the COVID-19 within the facility, as well as proper access to available remedies to assess the continuity of their deprivation of liberty in this context, particularly those who might be in a high-risk category. In addition, applicants reported a series of detention conditions, including the need of adequate medical treatment, which accrued the seriousness of the situation faced by the beneficiaries.

After analyzing the available information, the IACHR deemed that the requirements set out in Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure were sufficiently met. It therefore requested that the United States adopt the measures necessary to protect the life, personal integrity and health of the migrants who are detained at the NWDC. In particular, by ensuring that they have a proper, speedy and accessible access to the appropriate remedies without unnecessary burdens, to assess the continuity of their detention in light of the threat caused by the COVID-19, especially those who are in a high risk category, as described in the Center for Diseases and Control Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines. In addition, the State is called upon doubling its efforts in identifying ex officio all those who might fall under discretionary release based on medical circumstances while preventing from placing any new such persons at the NWDC.

The Commission further requested the State to adopt the measures necessary to ensure that the potential beneficiaries’ detention conditions comply with the applicable international standards, particularly with regards to the threat posed by the COVID-19. In this sense, the State must improve its capacity in effectively preventing the spread of the virus within the NWDC, such as by properly cleaning and disinfecting the facility, as well as providing sufficient sanitary material and guarantee that safety protocols are followed by every person at the facility, among other measures that might be necessary in the present circumstances. Following the above, and in order to ensure social distancing, the State is called upon adopting any measure deemed adequate, such as by sufficiently reducing the number of people being held at the NWDC, prioritizing those who face a greater risk given their personal conditions as indicated above, and allocating available space to adequately enforce social distancing, in light of the recommendations issued by the relevant authorities. Finally, the Commission requested the United States to adopt the measures necessary to ensure that the detention conditions are generally compatible with the applicable international standards, particularly concerning sanitation, and that access to medical treatment is guaranteed to the extent prescribed by the respective specialists or physicians.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the state does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the inter-American system to allege violations to the rights protected by the applicable international instruments.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 182/20