Event: Life imprisonment at the 14th UN Crime Congress
Life imprisonment is allowed in law in at least 183 countries and territories, often as the ultimate penalty for the most serious crimes. As of 2014, there were roughly 479,000 persons serving “formal life sentences” around the world (although this is an underestimate), compared to 261,000 in the year 2000, representing a rise of nearly 84 per cent in 14 years. This upward trend will persist unless penal policies and practices are changed significantly to limit the use of life imprisonment.
At the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, PRI held a side event examining the reasons for why the use of life imprisonment has increased, and the human rights and corrections-related challenges faced in implementing the sentence. Delegates heard from a range of speakers, including the authors of groundbreaking research published in 2019 on the use and implementation of life imprisonment around the globe.
Co-sponsored by Portugal, Austria, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), University of Nottingham, American Civil Liberties Union, Howard League for Penal Reform, Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Watch some of the presentations
Ilze Brands Kehris, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights:
H.E. Ms. Francisca Van Dunem, Minister of Justice, Portugal:
Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit and Dr. Catherine Appleton, authors of Life Imprisonment: A Global Human Rights Analysis, 2019:
Philipp Meissner, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Inter-regional Advisor, Focal Point for Prison Reform:
Mr Shoji Sakurai, who spent 29 years in Japanese prison serving a life sentence and was then acquitted:
Frances Crook, Executive Director for Howard League for Penal Reform (England and Wales):
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