PRI is calling on the Human Rights Council and its bodies today to address as a human rights issue the overuse of imprisonment and the deplorable overcrowded conditions in prisons that it causes.
Read this news article in Arabic / العربية
In the Panel Discussion on Persons Deprived of their Liberty during this 27th Regular Session of the Council, Taghreed Jaber, PRI’s Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa is outlining why.
In the Middle East and North Africa occupancy rates in prisons are on average 150%. This means a lack of resources, staff and space. In some prisons there is one guard for some 300 prisoners. All of this has a direct impact on the human rights of the people detained in these conditions.
The right to health is violated through the spread of diseases and the lack of medical care. The lack of food in some extreme cases leads to death through malnutrition, violating the right to life. Personal safety and the right to security is frequently violated for not only prisoners but prison staff. Visits are difficult in this environment so the right to family life is frequently not met. Rights to a fair trial and legal representation become a privilege rather than the norm, particular given the number of men and women who are in pre-trial detention. In some countries the sheer number of pre-trial detainees makes it difficult to even provide transport for court hearings.
Human rights violated in prisons around the world as a result of overcrowding do not need to continue. As highlighted in today’s discussion, it is a policy choice. Increasing the use of non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment, rather than building more prisons (which is an unsustainable and expensive option), reduces numbers of people in prison and allows for a better chance of rehabilitation. In Algeria, community service has been introduced and has had a positive impact on society and offenders. In Morocco, reintegration programmes are decreasing the prison population by reducing recidivism rates.
Today PRI, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), Argentina, and the International Legal Foundation (ILF) called on member states, the Human Rights Council and its bodies to take a preventative approach to these human rights violations: to systematically address the unnecessary use of detention as a ‘default sanction’; to promote the reduction of detention based on the principles of necessity and proportionality; and to encourage the use of alternatives, drawing on the UN Tokyo Rules.
Unless they start to address the issue of overcrowding, international human rights mechanisms will continue to report on unfair and unnecessary deprivation of liberty and deplorable detention conditions without ever being able to effectively remedy them.
Read PRI’s oral statement, jointly submitted with the ACLU, CELS and The ILF.
Watch a recording of the panel or read a summary of the discussion here.