UN Standard Minimum Rules: Standing the test of time

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The UN standards on the treatment of prisoners have stood the test of time but need to be better implemented. This was affirmed by the more than 40 States that recently met in Vienna to examine best practices and possible changes to the Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners.

The State delegations in the intergovernmental exchange rose to challenge the view that the Standard Minimum Rules, which were agreed in 1955, were outdated. However, at the meeting, States examined whether some areas might be improved or updated to reflect modern standards of detention. These areas included rules relating to access to a lawyer, the prohibition of prolonged solitary confinement, and independent monitoring, and all of these issues will be considered further when the issue is discussed at the high-level UN Crime Commission in April.

The APT has been following these debates with interest, and has lobbied states to encourage better implementation of the Standard Minimum Rules. National Preventive Mechanisms and other monitoring bodies are key to promoting better implementation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules and other relevant UN standards in practice. Making a real difference to conditions of detention for detainees is the ultimate purpose of this seminal set of standards, and the APT continues to support all efforts aimed at this objective.