Last week, the Group of Friends of Corrections in Peace Operations (GoF) held its annual meeting in New York, which PRI’s Executive Director, Alison Hannah, attended as an Observer. The GoF provides support for corrections work in UN peace operations, strengthening prison services through promoting the deployment of expert corrections personnel and exchanging good practice in dealing with the many challenges presented by conflict and post-conflict settings.
Over recent years the importance of corrections in peace operations has become more widely recognised. It is an integral part of the process of restoring the rule of law, alongside the roles of the police and justice system. Without secure prisons, civilians are not safe from those who have committed serious offences, including war crimes, and government authority cannot be effectively enforced.
A number of speakers highlighted the links between peacekeeping and corrections by referring to incidents where armed militia groups organised prison escapes to free their members or recruit new fighters for their cause. In some instances, a rise in criminality following the escapes had been noted.
Many challenges were identified in efforts to strengthen prisons and prison services in conflict situations. However, the need for adherence to human rights standards was stressed and the role of international expertise in enhancing national corrections service recognised. PRI’s contribution towards sharing good practice was noted and the value of its guides to the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules is reflected in the fact that they have been translated into a number of local languages to provide training materials for national services.