Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which were adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955 and approved by the Economic and Social Council by its resolutions 663 C (XXIV) of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 13 May 1977, are broadly considered to remain the universally acknowledged minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners. Taking into account the progressive development of both relevant international conventions and international standards and norms since 1957, however, the General Assembly also recognized that some areas of the Standard Minimum Rules could be reviewed to reflect the latest advances in correctional science and good practices, provided that any changes to the Rules would not result in lowering existing standards.

In 2011, upon the recommendation of the General Assembly, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice established an open-ended intergovernmental Expert Group on the revision of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including the task of exchanging information on best practices and of examining national legislation and existing international law in this regard.

Past meetings of the open-ended intergovernmental Expert Group on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

In the course of three meetings, including in Vienna from 31 January to 2 February 2012, Buenos Aires from 11 to 13 December 2012 and Vienna from 25 to 28 March 2014, the Expert Group reported to the Commission its progress in identifying thematic areas and specific rules for revision, and in drafting specific proposals for some of the rules.

The following nine thematic areas and respective rules were identified for revision upon completion of the second Expert Group meeting:

(a) Respect for prisoners' inherent dignity and value as human beings (rules 6, para. 1; 57-59; and 60, para. 1);

(b) Medical and health services (rules 22-26; 52; 62; and 71, para. 2);

(c) Disciplinary action and punishment, including the role of medical staff, solitary confinement and reduction of diet (rules 27, 29, 31 and 32);

(d) Investigation of all deaths in custody, as well as any signs or allegations of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners (rules 7, 44 bis and 54 bis);

(e) Protection and special needs of vulnerable groups deprived of their liberty, taking into consideration countries in difficult circumstances (rules 6 and 7);

(f) The right of access to legal representation (rules 30; 35, para. 1; 37; and 93);

(g) Complaints and independent inspection (rules 36 and 55);

(h) The replacement of outdated terminology (rules 22-26; 62, 82-83 and various others); and

(i) Training of relevant staff to implement the Standard Minimum Rules (rule 47).

The third meeting of the Expert Group reached agreement on an amended text of the following rules: Rules 6, 22, 27, 30, 34 bis, 57-59, and rule 60. The third meeting discussed, but did not yet agree on amended text of the following rules: Rules 22, 29, 30, 37 bis and rule 47.

In its resolution 69/192 of 18 December 2014 entitled 'Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners', the General Assembly decided to extend the mandate of the Expert Group, authorizing it to continue its work, with the aim of reaching a consensus, and to present a report for the information of the Thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and for the consideration of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its twenty-fourth session.

The General Assembly further highlighted a number of principles which should guide the continued revision process, including that:

(a) Any changes to the Standard Minimum Rules should not lower any of the existing standards but should improve them so that they reflect the recent advances in correctional science and good practices, so as to promote safety, security and humane conditions for prisoners;

(b) The revision process should maintain the existing scope of application of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and continue to take into account the social, legal and cultural specificities, as well as human rights obligations, of Member States.

In the same resolution, the bureau of the third Expert Group meeting was invited to continue to be involved in the revision of the rules by preparing, with the assistance of the Secretariat, a revised consolidated working paper, in all official languages of the United Nations, consisting of the draft revised rules, which should reflect the progress achieved so far, including the recommendations made by the Expert Group at its meetings held in Buenos Aires in 2012 and in Vienna in 2014, taking also into account proposals for revision put forward by Member States in relation to the areas and rules identified by the General Assembly in paragraph 6 of its resolution 67/188, for submission to and consideration by the Expert Group at its next meeting;

Fourth meeting of the Expert Group - Cape Town, South Africa, 2-5 March 2015

Upon the generous invitation of the Government of South Africa, the fourth meeting of the Expert Group will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 2 to 5 March 2015, preceded by an optional visit to Robben Island in the afternoon of 1 March 2015. The fourth meeting will focus on reviewing the revised consolidated working paper prepared by the bureau of the third meeting of the Expert Group with the assistance of the Secretariat, as requested by the General Assembly.

 

Fourth meeting documentation

 

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Documents submitted by the Secretariat

A/RES/69/192.

General Assembly

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UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2015/Inf.1

Information note for participants

Robben Island

   

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UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2015/1

Provisional Agenda pdf pdf pdf pdf pdf pdf
E/CN.15/2015/17 Report on the meeting of the Expert Group   pdf pdf pdf   pdf   pdf   pdf

UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2015/ Inf.1

List of Participants     pdf      
  Standard Minimum Rules

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Documents submitted by the Bureau of the third meeting

UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2015/2

Revised consolidated working paper pdf pdf

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