THURSDAY 14TH FEBRUARY, 6PM, PARKINSON B.08
What are the standard rights, prisoners are entitled to; and do they apply to all individuals? To what extent do nations have a role in this, should they be changed? safeguarded? Come and Join us this Thursday 14th February at Parkinson to discuss the Minimum Rights of Prisoners.
In a nutshell, the core question at the heart of this topic is what rights should all prisoners be entitled to? And how would the UNHRC best safeguard these rights are ensured? It is the position of the UNHRC that all prisons deserve access to a basic degree of human rights and hence dignity while under detention, as detailed in Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners was adopted in 1955 by the First United Nations Congress. The key points to extract from this document are: everyone is entitled to be treated equally, whether they have committed a crime or not. It is essential to have respect for one’s human dignity, and the standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners embody the principles of humanity. The goals of these rules are to guide against mistreatment particularly in connection with the enforcement of discipline and the use of instruments of restraint in penal institutions, while also protecting prisoners from harm from other prisoners and guiding reintegration into society upon any potential release.
According to these standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners there should be a special type of provision for the insane and mentally ill prisoners, those under arrest or awaiting trial and people arrested or detained without charge.
In modern times, large improvements have been made in the way prisoners are treated globally, but there are still some exceptions. Within developing countries pre-trial detention is a huge issue. It is common in developing countries that the ones who face pre-trial detention go through worse conditions than then those who are sentenced in prison. Their prison management is also very poor, as they don’t follow up upon their rules and laws to protect and promote human rights. While another issue within developing countries is their inadequate healthcare systems, as this makes it easier for diseases to spread among the inmates.
There are also camps or prisons which violate human rights within more economically developed nations the most notorious of which is Guantanamo Bay. It is controlled by the United States of America. Here degrading treatments are carried out such as forced nudity, severe beatings, electric shocks and sexual assaults. Most of these abuses committed by American soldiers are in violation of human rights and violate the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Abu Ghraib is another prison camp employed by the USA where there were complaints of routine human rights violations. The British Government (in addition to the Russian, French and Indian States) has also attracted widespread criticism, both at home and abroad, for its treatment of detention without trial of suspected terrorists.
Even nations who appear to follow the UN requirements on the minimum care of prisoners such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland can still find themselves in violation. See the example of the Australian offshore immigrant detention centres on Manus and Nauru islands and the poor conditions exemplified there.
Clearly the 1955 requirements are outdated and no longer sufficient when faced with the modern challenges to prisoner welfare and it is essential to update these requirements which can form a basis of an agreeable, international law. Further, with the old UN Resolution being so routinely defied it is of clear importance to propose how these newly proposed regulations will be better enforced.