At its annual meeting on 2-3 December 2021, the Board of Penal Reform International (PRI) appointed David Fathi as its new Chairperson. As a lawyer who has devoted more than 25 years of his professional career to the representation of prisoners and the struggle for a criminal justice system that is humane, progressive and rehabilitative, David brings a wealth of experience to PRI. Since 2010 he has served as Director of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s an honour to be appointed as the new chair of PRI, an organisation that has promoted fair and effective criminal justice systems for over 30 years. I look forward to leading PRI’s outstanding team across the globe. As the global prison population reaches record levels and COVID continues to endanger people who live and work in prisons, PRI’s work is more important than ever,” stated David.
He added: “PRI remains at the heart of ensuring human rights are upheld for people in criminal justice systems – an especially urgent priority as political developments erode rights protections in many countries.”
The Board and PRI’s staff also paid gratitude to Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit who had recently stepped down as Chairperson after serving as Chair for six years. He commented:
“It has been a great honour to have served on PRI’s Board for ten years, and as Chair for six years. During this time PRI has continued to contribute both to international standard setting and to the more practical implementation of penal reform in the many countries worldwide in which it works. For me personally the most important development during this period was the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations in late 2015 of the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) The dedicated lobbying by PRI played a crucial role in persuading the international community that it was possible to produce a revised set of standards that are an improvement on Rules that had remained largely unaltered for 60 years because of the fear that any changes would lead to a watering down of standards. By putting forward well thought out reform proposals that were incremental, yet very positive, PRI made a crucial contribution to these benchmark standards that can make imprisonment worldwide more humane.”
“My involvement with PRI stretches back almost 30 years. During that time, I have been privileged to be invited to contribute, as a member of PRI, to many standard setting activities. As a South African, I am particularly proud of my work on the 1996 Declaration on Prison Conditions in Africa and on the subsequent 2002 Ouagadougou Declaration on Accelerating Penal and Prison Reform in Africa. Membership of PRI also allowed me to pursue my research interests in life imprisonment worldwide. PRI has achieved a great deal in the past 30 years. I am sure that it will continue to do so under the leadership of my successor as Chairperson, David Fathi,” Dirk added.
PRI’s Board is its highest decision-making body. It determines in general terms PRI’s policy and provides supervision, oversight and control over the activities of the organisation.
Read about PRI’s work in its latest Annual Report for 2020.