Category Archives: SMR

“Mandela Rules” Passed, Standards on the Treatment of Prisoners Enhanced for the 21st Century

Last week saw the welcome passage of a landmark resolution at the recent Vienna Crime Congress endorsing the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR). The revised standards will be known as the “Mandela Rules” in honor of the legacy of the late South African President. As the primary international standards relating to treatment in detention, the updated Rules expressly emphasize the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment and the fact that prisoners must be protected from such practices and treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. The Rules also impose substantial limitations on the use of prolonged and prolonged solitary solitary confinement. In a statement prior to the start of the Vienna Crime Congress, Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Mendez called for the adoption of the Mandela Rules, saying that their adoption and prospective implementation “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.” To learn more about the Special Rapporteur and the ATI’s involvement in the SMR revision process, visit our page dedicated to this topic.

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

May 18, 2015 – Today, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez called for the adoption of the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, proposed for adoption as the “Mandela Rules,” in an open letter to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The Rules are being considered by the 24th session Commission this week in Vienna, and the adoption of a Resolution on the Rules this week will enable the Rules to proceed forward and be considered by the UN General Assembly in December 2015. 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,” the Special Rapporteur stated. “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 requirements for 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. However, the Special Rapporteur warned that “[r]egrettably, 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.” In addition, he noted that the proposed naming of the Mandela Rules would serve to “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.” You can read the press release and open letter in full on the OHCHR website.

SRT Presentation to UNGA (Spanish)

UNODC Liaison Office in Brazil: UN Special Rapporteur calls for global rules for treatment of prisoners to be updated

October 30 – The Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, called for the upgrading of the universally accepted principles with emphasis on the need to review the use of solitary confinement. Mendez identified minors, people with mental disabilities, and women as groups that should not be subjected to solitary confinement. The Special Rapporteur also called for the revised rules to reflect developments in the area of international law and best practices that have evolved since the inception of the Standard Minimum Rules over fifty years ago. Read the article here.

TIMELINE OF THE REVIEW PROCESS (IN REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)

TIMELINE OF THE REVIEW PROCESS

UN Radio Interviews the Special Rapporteur About Revision of Standard Minimum Rules

October 23, 2013 – Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez was interviewed in Spanish by UN Radio about his newest thematic report on the revision of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR). The Special Rapporteur reiterated the need to revise the current SMRs, which were written over half a century ago, to address the current challenges posed by penitentiary systems worldwide. The Special Rapporteur concluded that the SMRs are meant to apply to all institutions that deprive persons of their liberty, including but not limited to mental health facilities and administrative or  immigration detention centers. To listen to the interview in Spanish, click here.

Treatment of Prisoners: “Revise the Rules, But Don’t Lower Existing Standards,” Says UN Expert on Torture

October 22, 2013 – During the 68th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, the Special Rapporteur urged states to update the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs), which were adopted more than five decades ago, to adequately reflect recent advances in international human rights law and best practices. The Special Rapporteur explained that renewed focus on the revision and implementation of the SMRs constitutes a “turning point” and in important standard setting exercises as regards the treatment of detainees worldwide.  The Special Rapporteur also urged governments to ensure that the revision of the SMRs does not lower existing standards. Here is a Press Release of the Special Rapporteur’s presentation.

Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez Addresses U.N. General Assembly on Revising Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Urges No Lowering of Existing Standards

October 22, 2013 – Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez addressed the 68th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, October 22, discussing his latest thematic report on reviewing the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs). The Special Rapporteur urged Governments to update the SMRs to reflect recent developments in international human rights law, including the absolute prohibition against torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and best practices, but stressed that “any revision must not lower existing standards.” The Special Rapporteur was also joined by the Chair of the UN Committee against Torture Mr. Claudio Grossman, and the Chair of the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, Mr. Malcolm Evans, for a press conference, and a special side event with civil society partners. In his report the SRT stressed the importance of revising the rules, but without lowering the existing standards.  A full recording of the Special Rapporteur’s statement before the third committee of the 68th General Assembly Session and the interactive dialogue with states is available here. To watch the Special Rapporteur’s press conference, please visit the UNTV website.  A full recording of the side event on the SMRs is available here.

Radio Free Europe: UN Rapporteur Condemns Prison Overcrowding

October 23: Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture, highlighted overpopulation in prisons as a potential form of ill treatment or even torture in an address to the General Assembly in New York. His report advocated for the modernization of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

ABC News: UN says prison overcrowding could be torture, pushes to revise rules on treatment of prisoners

October 23: U.N. Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez highlighted overpopulation as a particular instance where overcrowding creates conditions that amount to ill treatment or even torture. He urged the General Assembly to evaluate the body’s rules on the treatment of prisoners. “The global prison crisis has an adverse impact on conditions of detention,” resulting in circumstances that Mr Mendez said amounted “to ill-treatment or even torture.”