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Dignity and Justice for Detainees week 

The inhuman and degrading treatment of people in detention is an insult to human dignity. The torture of individuals in custody is an affront to all mankind.

As part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights calls on all partners to pay special attention to the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons and other places of detention.

The High Commissioner has proposed that the week of 6 – 12 October 2008 be designated as Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week.

The main objectives of this initiative are to:

  • make the public aware that detainees do not forego their human rights while in detention;
  • help national authorities to improve respect for detainees’ rights, including the right not to be deprived of their liberty arbitrarily or otherwise unlawfully; and
  • raise the international profile of issues related to the rights of detainees.

The High Commissioner directs her appeal on behalf of detainees to the following national and international partners:

  • National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), many of which have a mandate to visit and monitor conditions in places of detention.
  • Field representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • United Nations agencies and programmes, and UN Country Teams.
  • Peacekeeping missions.
  • Civil society organizations.
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially those specializing in issues related to detention. 
  • Ministries of justice.
  • Regional Human Rights Commissions and courts.
  • National police forces.
  • The judiciary.
  • Members of Parliament.
  • Prison administrations.  
  • Lawyers and bar associations.
  • The media.

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.
(Please see the accompanying information notes on these thematic areas.)

Partners are invited to decide, based on their expertise and conditions in the country of operations, which general or thematic areas they wish to concentrate on.

While the proposed Dignity and Justice in Detention 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. The following events and others like them could serve to anchor activities in support of the initiative in 2008:

  • 10 October: World Mental Health Day.
  • 20 – 24 October: The 9th International Conference of NHRIs in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the conference is the administration of justice, including the role of NHRIs with respect to the administration of prisons.
  • 20 November: Date of the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
  • 25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
  • 1 December: World AIDS Day.
  • 3 December: International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
  • 10 December: Human Rights Day.  
  • 18 December: International Migrants Day.