Respect for the UN Standard Minimum Rules through effective implementation

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plans to modernise the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners should first consider whether the existing Rules have yet been achieved. This is one of the concerns of over one hundred States, UN agencies and other civil society organisations which convened in Vienna for the annual UN Crime Commission (23-27 April).

The APT considers that the Standard Minimum Rules, adopted by the first Crime Congress in 1955, are an historic text which remains a critical benchmark for the treatment of detainees for many countries around the world. Due to the importance of this text, the risks involved in its revision are significant. The APT proposes that rather than embarking on a lengthy process of review where the outcome is far from certain, increased efforts should be channeled into implementing the existing rules, aimed at improving standards and conditions for persons deprived of liberty.

The UN has consistently reported that the Rules are not fully implemented in many countries around the world. As a result of the significant gap between the adopted rules and those implemented by individual States, a commentary of practical ‘operational guidelines’ is needed. Such operational guidelines would greatly facilitate better implementation in practice by national actors such as prison officials, national human rights institutions and national preventive mechanisms. As part of this recommendation, we further encourage States to ratify the OPCAT and operationalise National Preventive