The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on Monday called for an independent enquiry into the death of a Ugandan woman lodged at the Tihar jail after being injured in a scuffle in July.

In a statement, the CHRI also raised concerns about the condition of foreigners in Indian prisons, urging States and the Union Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs to work with diplomatic missions to ensure their safety.

The Ugandan woman, Jesca Sarah Kafeeco, died while undergoing surgery for injuries sustained in a scuffle. Foreign prisoners had protested demanding release on interim bail due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She along with 53 other foreign nationals had made a representation before the High Powered Committee in New Delhi in March, raising concerns of discrimination meted against foreign national prisoners, which had placed restrictions on their release. Jail authorities have reportedly cited ‘use of minimum force’ as the cause of her injuries, and that itself warrants an enquiry by the National Human Rights Commission,” the CHRI said.

CHRI prison reforms programme head Madhurima Dhanuka said such prisoners had been vulnerable before, but the issues had escalated during the pandemic.

“Blanket denial of bail and parole, curbs on communication with family and lawyers, suspension of regular hearings in courts, delayed consular access, suspension of international flights,” were among the problems faced by them, she said.

The CHRI statement said there were 5,168 foreign prisoners, 15.2% of which were women, according to the Prison Statistics India, 2018.

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