UN launches ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’ on improving treatment of prisoners
Oct.8, Geneva: The United Nations launched the Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, dubbed the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules.’
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed it as “a great step forward” but he also drew attention to three areas that could be strengthened from a human rights perspective.
The critical importance of protecting the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty as one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals who risk abuse and ill-treatment, UN said.
The senior human rights official highlighted as “important advances” the right to health of persons deprived of their liberty so that prisoners enjoy the same standard of health care as in the community and for continuity of treatment and care.
According to the UN, the provision is very important because the risk of transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases is much higher in prisons than in the general population.
The revised rules have “much more” specific provisions on solitary confinement, notably by defining solitary confinement as the confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact; restricting the scope for application of solitary confinement; and defining prolonged solitary confinement as solitary confinement in excess of 15 days.
The new rules provide for the first time guidance on intrusive searches, including strip and body cavity searches, and require the prison director to report, without delay, any custodial death, disappearance or serious injury and conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the circumstances and causes of such cases.
UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft also recalled the spirit of Mandela, noting that the late leader emphasized: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
They outline that there shall be no discrimination; that the religious beliefs and moral precepts of prisoners shall be respected; and that legal representation and protection are mandated in regard to vulnerable groups within the prison populations.
Re-offending and a life of crime are often handed down from one generation to another, exacerbating poverty and marginalization in societies. Greater human rights, enhanced education, improved chances of rehabilitation can break these dangerous cycles.
The Oslo Times