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Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week

When launching the Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week initiative, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, the media and other partners worldwide to pay special attention to the rights of people who are deprived of their liberty in prisons and other places of detention.

OHCHR has designated the week of 6 -12 October as Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week - © OHCHR

“There are problems relating to detention in almost all countries, both in the North and in the South, in the developed world and the developing world,” said the High Commissioner in a press conference to launch the initiative.

The initiative aims to make the public aware that detainees do not forego their human rights while in detention, to help national authorities to improve respect for detainees’ rights, and to raise the international profile of issues related to the rights of detainees. 

“The nature of the problems can vary enormously. It may centre around a particular piece of legislation that seeks to short-circuit due process, or omits essential safeguards, or it may manifest itself in widespread, open-ended detention of people for political or other reasons which, under international law, should not be considered as crimes,” the High Commissioner said.

The High Commissioner underlined that her office is constantly engaged in the battle against impunity. “We are not against prisons and detention centres per se – but they should be reserved for those who really deserve to be there according to the extensive, detailed and fundamentally sound international standards governing criminal justice,” she said.

During this week, all partners are encouraged to adopt a wide perspective on detention in order to address the plight of especially vulnerable groups. They should look, in particular, at the situation of women and girls, children, people with disabilities, and migrants (including refugees and asylum seekers) deprived of their liberty.

OHCHR is also funding projects by a number of national human rights institutions to raise the issue of detainees’ rights. They include workshops on the rights of detainees, human rights training for prison wardens, and publicity campaigns to enhance awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights among detainees, law enforcement and judicial officers, and the general public.

While the Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week will serve to draw the spotlight onto detention, sustained improvements in the conditions of detainees will require action before the week begins and after it.

“We would like people to focus on the issue longer term, since many of the problems we are focusing on are systemic, and it will take time and sustained effort to bring about major improvements,” said the High Commissioner.

October 2008