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 (ECOSOC) 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 (A/RES/65/230).
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.
First meeting of the Intergovernmental Expert Group: Vienna, Austria, 31 January - 2 February 2012
With a view to preparing the ground for discussions in the course of the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Expert Group, the Secretariat held a number of consultations with international experts in the course of 2011, including a high-level expert group meeting held in Santo Domingo from 3 to 5 August and an expert group meeting held in Vienna on 6 and 7 October. In addition, technical consultations on those provisions in the Standard Minimum Rules which address penitentiary health care took place in Abano Terme, Italy.
For the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Expert Group, the Secretariat prepared a working paper, which identified, for each of the Rules, the advances in internationally recognized good practice and highlighted references to recent international instruments. In its recommendations on possible next steps to the twenty-first session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Intergovernmental Expert Group recognised a need for some areas of the Standard Minimum Rules to be reviewed, and identified the following preliminary areas for possible consideration:
(a) Respect for prisoners' inherent dignity and value as human beings;
(b) Medical and health services;
(c) Disciplinary action and punishment, including the role of medical staff, solitary confinement and reduction of diet;
(d) Investigation of all deaths in custody, as well as any signs or allegations of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners;
(e) Protection and special needs of vulnerable groups deprived of their liberty, taking into consideration countries in difficult circumstances;
(f) The right of access to legal representation;
(g) Complaints and independent inspection; and
(h) The replacement of outdated terminology.
The Secretariat reported on the work of the Intergovernmental Expert Group to the twenty-first session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice ( E/CN.15/2012/18), which approved a resolution for adoption by the General Assembly ( A/RES/67/188). Operative paragraph 8 of this resolution authorized the Intergovernmental Expert Group to continue its work, within its mandate, with a view to reporting on its progress to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its twenty-second session in 2013.
Second Meeting of the Intergovernmental Expert Group: Buenos Aires, Argentina, 11-13 December 2012
At the invitation of the Government of Argentina, the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Expert Group took place in Buenos Aires in order to consider the preliminary areas identified for possible consideration in the course of its first meeting. In order to assist the work of the Intergovernmental Expert Group, the Secretariat prepared a working paper, which (i) examined, in detail, the preliminary areas in light of subsequently adopted international instruments, standards and norms, as well as recognised guidelines and principles; (ii) identified relevant rules in the Standard Minimum Rules which may be revised; and (iii) outlined proposals, under each preliminary area, for discussion among Member States.
In its recommendations on possible next steps to the twenty-second session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2013, the Intergovernmental Expert Group identified the issues and rules to be considered under each preliminary area, recognising that the working paper of the Secretariat had, to a large extent, captured the relevant issues in the Standard Minimum Rules. The Secretariat reported on the work of the Intergovernmental Expert Group to the twenty-second session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice ( E/CN.15/2013/23), which approved a resolution adopted by the General Assembly ( E/RES/2013/35 adopted as GA68/190). Operative paragraph 6 of this resolution authorized the Expert Group to continue its work, within its mandate, with a view to reporting to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its twenty-third session in 2014. Operative paragraphs 8 and 9 further invited Member States to submit to the Secretariat, by 30 September 2013, proposals for revision in the nine areas identified, and requested the Secretariat to prepare a working paper integrating all such inputs for consideration at the next meeting of the Expert Group. Civil society and relevant United Nations bodies were also invited to contribute to the process.
Third meeting of the Expert Group: Vienna, Austria, 25-28 March 2014
The Secretariat is pleased to announce that following close consultations with the Government of Brazil, it has now been jointly agreed to hold the third meeting in Vienna, at the Vienna International Centre.
To facilitate the work of the third expert group meeting, and as requested in GA resolution 68/190, the Secretariat has prepared a working paper (UNODC/CCPC/EG.6/2014/CRP.1) integrating all submissions from Member States received until 30 September 2013. Those submissions from Member States are posted on the website. The working paper is available in all the official languages of the United Nations and has been posted on the website.
Submissions from civil society and relevant UN bodies are also posted on this website.
It should be noted that interpretation services would have been provided in-kind by the Government of Brazil if the meeting had taken place in Brasília. The meeting in Vienna will be held in English only unless extra-budgetary resources will be made available for that purpose.
Third meeting documentation:
Documents submitted by the Secretariat
E/RES/2013/35 (GA res 68/190)
Economic and Social Council
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/INF/3||Information note for participants|
Working paper prepared by the Secretariat
|Provisional agenda and organization of work schedule|
|E/CN.15/2014/19||Report of the open-ended intergovernmental Expert Group on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners at its Third Meeting|
Responses from Member States
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/Gov.9||United States of America|
|E/CN.15/2013/CRP.6||Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela|
|A/68/295||Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment|
|ISBN 978 92 890 0050 5||WHO Europe|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/INF/1||Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/INF/2||Inter-American Commission on Human Rights|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/INF/2/Add.1||Inter-American Commission on Human Rights|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/INF/3||Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR)|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/INF/4||Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.1||Friends World Committee for Consultation|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.2||Permanent Assembly for Human Rights / National Prisoner Ombudsman (Argentina)|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.3||Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) and Conectas Human Rights|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.4||(Withdrawn for technical reasons)|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.5||World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.6||American Civil Liberties Union|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2014/NGO.7||Penal Reform International/Essex University|
|UNODC/CCPCJ/EG.6/2012/NGO.1||Penal Reform International / Essex University|
|CAT/C/51/4||Committee against Torture|