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UN expert calls for adoption of a minimum set of fundamental human rights for those in detention

GENEVA (18 May 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, called for the adoption of the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which are being considered this week by the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna.

The revised Rules contain a number of practical elements that provide detainees with increased protection from torture and other ill-treatment, such as a specific prohibition on the use of prolonged solitary confinement, which is defined as that exceeding 15 days.

“The time is now to adopt the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; anything less would send a negative signal to the international community,” Mr. Méndez cautioned in an Open Letter* to the UN Commission.

“The adoption and implementation of these rules reinforces human rights principles and provides greater protection for persons deprived of their liberty, updated procedural safeguards, and more effective guidance to national prison administrations,” he explained.

The revised Rules also include key safeguards such as the recognition of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and independent healthcare professionals who have a duty to refrain from participating in torture or other ill-treatment, and have a vital role in detecting such ill-treatment and reporting it.

“Regrettably, there is a lack of guidance on the use of force in the revised Rules which gives rise to the risk that excessive force may be used by prison guards and which, under appropriate circumstances, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the Special Rapporteur warned.

The adoption of a Resolution during the 24th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will enable the revised Rules (the proposed title being the “Mandela Rules”) to proceed forward and be considered by the UN General Assembly in December 2015.

“Such a title would honour the great Statesman and inspirational leader who served many years in prison in the name of freedom and democracy, by ensuring that all those deprived of their liberty are guaranteed a minimum set of fundamental human rights”, Mr. Méndez added.

(*) Read the Special Rapporteur’s Open Letter to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/SRTorture/OpenLetterUNCommission18Mai2015.doc

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx and http://antitorture.org/

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information about the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, visit: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/commissions/CCPCJ/session/index.html

For more information and media requests please contact:
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In Washington: Andra Nicolescu (anicoles@wcl.american.edu / +1 202 274 4378)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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