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Let’s mark Mandela Day by adopting a minimum set of human rights for millions of detainees Nelson Mandela International Day – Monday 18 July 2016

The Mandela Rules

15 July 2016

GENEVA / KAMPALA / STRASBOURG / WASHINGTON DC (15 July 2016) – Speaking ahead of Nelson Mandela International Day, a group of leading human rights experts have called on all States around the world to implement without delay the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners: the Nelson Mandela Rules.

The Rules represent a universally accepted minimum standard for the treatment of prisoners, conditions of detention and prison management, and offer essential practical guidance to prison administrations.

“Speedy and decisive steps towards implementation would truly honour the legacy of the great Statesman and inspirational leader Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez; the Special Rapporteur on prisons, conditions of detention and policing in Africa, Med Kaggwa; the Rapporteur on the rights of persons deprived of liberty of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, James Cavallaro; and the Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks, in an open statement* issued today.

“Their implementation in prisons around the world would significantly improve the treatment of millions of detainees,” the experts stated. “At the same time, it is useful guidance to help prison staff deliver their important and difficult task in a professional and effective way, benefiting society at large.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture added that “the revised Rules are premised on the recognition of prisoners’ inherent dignity and value as human beings, and contain essential new procedural standards and safeguards that will go a long way in protecting detainees from torture and other ill-treatment.”

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

“The prohibition of the use of prolonged solitary confinement, defined as that in excess of 15 days, is a particularly important new provision in the Rules,” Mr. Méndez stressed.

In their open statement, the group of UN and international experts hailed the adoption of Mandela Rules as “a historic step and one of the most significant human rights achievements in recent years.”

(*) Read the full statement:

Mr. Juan E. Méndez 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:

Mr. Med Kaggwa: The mandate of Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention was created by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 1996.  The Special Rapporteur is empowered to examine the situation of persons deprived of their liberty within the territories of States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. For more information, visit:

Mr. James Cavallaro: The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas was established in 2014 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to monitor, report and avise on the situation of all persons submitted to any form of deprivation of liberty in the OAS Member States. For more information, log on to:

Mr. Nils Muižnieks: The mandate of Commissioner for human rights was created by the Council of Europe in 1999. The Commissioner conducts visits to help raise the standards of human rights protection in all Council of Europe member states, and provides advice and raises awareness of human rights issues through the publication of thematic documents and organisation of events and workshops. Learn more, visit:

For more information and media requests please contact:
In Geneva: Sonia Cronin (+ 41 22 917 9160 / [email protected])
In Washington: Andra Nicolescu ([email protected] / +1 202 274 4378) 

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])  

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