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Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture, A/68/295, 9 August 2013

III. Review of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

B. Targeted review of preliminary areas: minimum set of procedural principles and safeguards

Scope and application of the Rules

28. Although Rule 95 clarifies that the scope of Rule 4 (1) extends to all persons deprived of their liberty, it is nevertheless important to make it explicit that the Rules are effectively applicable to all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment, whether for criminal or civil reasons, whether the person is detained prior to trial, while on remand or after conviction, or whether the individual is subject to so-called special security measures, administrative or corrective measures, or immigration-related measures. The Special Rapporteur urges that it be made explicit that the Rules are applicable to all forms of deprivation of liberty, without exception and regardless of the legal status of the imprisoned person. Furthermore, the Rules shall be applied (Rule 6 (1)) to all arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment, with no discrimination, on grounds of international law, for example on grounds of age, national, ethnic or social origin, cultural beliefs and practices, birth or other status, including health status, disability, gender or other identity and sexual orientation (see Human Rights Council resolution 17/19 and Human Rights Committee general comment No. 18, para. 7), as well as labelling on grounds of psychological profile or criminal past.

Respect for prisoners’ inherent dignity and value as human beings

Prisoners’ safety and prison violence

47. Incidents of abuse among prisoners, from subtle forms of harassment to intimidation and serious physical and sexual attacks, are a regular occurrence in all prisons.[6] The Special Rapporteur observes that although Rule 28 (1) prohibits employing prisoners in a disciplinary capacity, in some States guards delegate the authority for maintaining discipline and protecting detainees from exploitation and violence to privileged detainees who, in turn, often use this power to their own benefit. In this context, special consideration should be given to the aggravated risk of violence that women and those from vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, drug-dependant individuals, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and sex workers might suffer.

Protection and special needs of vulnerable groups deprived of their liberty

67. Ensuring non-discrimination and special protection for vulnerable groups and individuals is a critical component of the obligation to prevent torture and other ill-treatment. The Special Rapporteur recognizes that while all people deprived of their liberty are vulnerable to neglect, abuse and mistreatment, for certain marginalized groups that vulnerability is heightened. These groups include, in addition to those identified in Rule 6 (see para. 28 above), particular categories of detainees or prisoners (e.g. sex workers, drug users, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, prisoners who have tuberculosis or terminal illnesses and people living with HIV/AIDS) (see A/HRC/13/39/Add.5, paras. 231 and 257).

68. Both the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms have expressed concern about reports of sexual abuse and physical violence against homosexual and transgender prisoners (see A/HRC/19/41, paras. 34 and 36, and CAT/C/CRI/CO/2, para. 18). The Special Rapporteur has also examined the special needs of drug users in detention and penitentiary centres and the practice of denying opiate substitution treatment as a way of eliciting confessions by inducing painful withdrawal symptoms. This is a particular form of ill-treatment and possibly torture (A/HRC/22/53, para. 73).

70. The Special Rapporteur notes that while the Rules recognize and address specific needs of different categories of prisoners (such as women, juveniles, persons with disabilities and foreign nationals), it fails to require the extension of special protection measures to other disadvantaged groups of detainees or prisoners. It is essential that the Rules adopt special measures aimed at protecting the rights of other disadvantaged groups of prisoners, in accordance with well-established international standards and norms (see UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2012/2, p. 21). Special care must be taken to ensure that segregating members of these groups does not further marginalize them from the rest of the community or expose them to further risk of torture or ill-treatment (see, for example, the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, principle 9 (a)).

Training relevant staff to implement the Rules

83. The Rules should ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture or other ill-treatment are included in the training of corrections personnel, whether civilian or military, medical personnel and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment. Medical personnel should receive specific training on the provisions contained in the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2000). Training programmes should be envisaged to sensitize personnel to permissible methods and limitations for searches and steps to prevent and remedy prison violence with techniques that do not give rise to excessive use of force. Efforts should be strengthened to ensure that personnel adopt a gender-sensitive and age-sensitive approach (see the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners) and are sensitive to the particular needs of inmates who belong to marginalized groups by, for example, providing guidance, instances and examples on principles of equality and non-discrimination, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity (see A/HRC/19/41, para. 75).

Link to full text of the report: Report-SRTorture-GA-Report-2013

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. 6. Eleventh general report on the activities of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT/Inf (2001)16, para. 27).