PRI is delighted to report that the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ or Crime Commission) adopted revised Standard Minimum Rules (SMR) for the Treatment of Prisoners at its 24th session last week.
The adoption of the revised Rules – to be known as the ‘the Mandela Rules’ – is a historic moment for the treatment of prisoners and improvement of prison conditions. The existing version of the Rules are 60 years old and, whilst a useful and much used blueprint for prison operations worldwide, had been superseded by newer criminal justice and human rights standards and were widely considered to be ready for renewal.
The revision focussed on nine thematic areas, including healthcare in prisons, investigations of deaths in custody, disciplinary measures, professionalisation of prison staff and independent inspections. In particular, the revised Rules introduce for the first time in international standards a limitation on the use of solitary confinement and provide guidance on the use of searches, notably strict regulation of intrusive searches of prisoners.
Negotiations on the revised Rules began in 2011 with a first Inter-Governmental Expert Group Meeting (IEGM). The fourth and final IEGM took place this March in Cape Town, South Africa, in the shadow of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent many years of his incarceration.
The civil society contribution to the revision process was led by a core group of NGOs – American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina), Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil), Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género (Chile), International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (Brazil), and the Friends World Committee for Consultation – and coordinated by PRI.
Andrea Huber, PRI Policy Director said:
“PRI is delighted at the successful outcome of this process. The updating of a key set of widely used standards with the adoption of the Mandela Rules by the Crime Commission last week was a significant milestone for the advancement of prison conditions and treatment of prisoners worldwide. PRI will now be looking to provide guidance and support to national stakeholders seeking to implement the Mandela Rules in their jurisdictions.”
The resolution was adopted by the plenary of the Crime Commission, sponsored by Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, United States, Uruguay. Co-sponsors were the Dominican Republic, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, Bolivia, Liechtenstein, Japan, Canada – and Latvia signed up on behalf of the European Union as a whole.
It is expected that the resolution will now be put forward by the UN Economic and Social Council (EcoSoc) for adoption by the UN General Assembly at the end of the year.
Read the text of the Resolution
Read about the revision process
Read a blog by Professor Sir Nigel Rodley setting out the changes to the existing provisions and why the revisions will be so significant.