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.