Ahead of an Inter-governmental Expert Group meeting (IEGM) on the Review of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in Buenos Aires in December, a summary of outcomes from an independent experts’ meeting held at the University of Essex on 3 and 4 October 2012 on the proposed reform of the Rules has been submitted to the United Nations.
Based on a resolution adopted by the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in April this year, this paper recommends specific changes to the Rules, and puts forward the rationale behind them for the governmental experts at the Buenos Aires IEGM. It focuses on the areas proposed by the CCPCJ for possible reform and reiterates the commitment made in the resolution that any changes must not lower existing standards.
The drafters of the current Rules, adopted in 1957, were visionary and long-sighted enough to draft, in economically and politically difficult times, a set of standards for the treatment of prisoners that were ambitious then and remain of value today. However, not surprisingly, some 55 years later standards have developed and in several areas the Rules are no longer compliant with current international human rights standards.
The resolution of the CCPCJ in April, which has since been endorsed by the Human Rights Committee of the UN General Assembly, recognised that some areas of the Rules ‘could be reviewed so that the Rules reflect the latest advances in correctional science and good practices, provided that any changes to the Rules would not lower any existing standards’.
The IEGM in Buenos Aires will discuss the enhancements in international standards since 1957, and how they impact on a set of minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, which have since their adoption provided the ‘blueprint’ for national prison rules globally. The Detention, Rights and Social Justice Programme at the University of Essex and Penal Reform International had convened an expert meeting on the proposed reform on 3 and 4 October to provide input into this discussion.
This meeting was financially supported by the UK Department for International Development (‘DFID’), the Oak Foundation and the University of Essex Research and Enterprise Office.
Please find the provisional agenda of the IEGM in Buenos Aires and other submissions here: