In recent years there has been growing attention to issues surrounding the imprisonment of violent extremists and risks of radicalisation in prisons (leading to violence) with efforts to prevent and counter these trends by international, regional and national authorities.
There is no global data on the number of violent extremist people currently imprisoned, but there are significant regional and country variations around the world. Some countries imprison only a handful of violent extremists, while other countries have many hundreds or thousands in detention.
In prison settings, security concerns in the context of preventing and countering violent extremism are increasingly cited by authorities as a justification for limiting the rights of people in prison. It is important to distinguish violent extremism and terrorist radicalisation from extremism and radicalisation respectively. Overcrowding and poor conditions, alongside harsh treatment are widely recognised as causing grievances, frustration and resentment among people in prison, and may lead some to be radicalised leading to violence.
The management of violent extremist individuals and any programmes or measures to prevent radicalisation leading to violence should always be framed by international human rights standards, including the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules.
A growing number of children are being detained in the context of counter-terrorism operations. Children who have been recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups should be treated primarily as victims. If they are arrested and prosecuted their victimisation should be considered and they should be dealt with in accordance with international standards on child justice at all times. Read our briefing, Children and violent extremism: international standards and responses from criminal justice systems.
As part of our 2020-2023 strategy we will work to ensure strategies to manage violent extremist people in detention and the prevention of radicalisation to violence in prisons are proportionate and founded upon international human rights standards. We will work to ensure children involved in violent terrorism are recognised as victims first and foremost.
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