We work at the UN Human Rights Council on many issues, but particularly on the overuse of imprisonment, torture prevention, the abolition of the death penalty, women in detention, and the rights of children of incarcerated parents.
While the issues of torture and ill-treatment in detention are raised within the UN Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures on a regular basis, the problems of the overuse of detention and severe overcrowding have traditionally been regarded as an issue of criminal law rather than a human rights issue.
Since 2013, PRI has advocated for the issue of overuse of detention and overcrowding to be addressed by the Human Rights Council and for suitable mechanisms to be explored, emphasising that:
- the overuse of imprisonment is one of the major underlying causes of overcrowding and deplorable detention conditions across the globe that violate the human rights of prisoners cannot be effectively addressed without challenging the issue of overcrowding
- overcrowding results in conditions that amount to torture and ill-treatment, and has a severe negative impact on the right to personal liberty, the presumption of innocence, and the right to legal defence, among others
- guidelines that address the underlying causes of prison overcrowding are scarce. These include excessive use of pre-trial detention and proportionality of prison sentences for minor and non-violent crimes
- while the UN Tokyo Rules on non-custodial measures and the UN Bangkok Rules on non-custodial measures for women provide a framework for alternatives to both pre-trial detention and custodial sentences, there is no mechanism to monitor their application by member states, to recommend approaches to reduce the prison population compliant with human rights standards, or to compile good practice in non-custodial measures and prison decongestion.
In September 2013, the Council took a significant move by adopting a resolution in encouraging States to address overcrowding in detention facilities. The High Commissioner subsequently submitted a report to the Council on the human rights implications of over-incarceration and overcrowding (in September 2015).
It identifies both disproportionate sentencing policies and lack of non‑custodial alternative sentences as causes of overcrowding, drawing a clear link between over‑incarceration, overcrowding and violations of human rights and makes recommendations.
Read PRI’s informal submission to this report.
We now continue to advocate for the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to address overcrowding and the overuse of imprisonment as a human rights issue.
Human Rights Council Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures
We work with and support various human rights bodies established by the Human Rights Council, including: