Lebanon: Honoring Nelson Mandela at Roumieh Prison

18th July 2018 - Beirut, Lebanon 

On July 18, at the occasion of the Nelson Mandela International Day, UNODC in partnership with the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and the Prison Administration at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) organized an event at the Roumieh prison tribunal under the framework of the UNODC project "Improving prison conditions in Lebanon" funded by Italy.

The foundations and concepts of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) were presented by Mrs. Mirna Bou Habib to 50 people in two groups that gathered representatives from the ISF (officers and members), the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the MoJ, and various Non-Governmental Organizaions (NGOs) working in Roumieh prison. Then the head of the prison administration Judge Raja Abi Nader grabbed all participants' attention (from both groups) when he concretely described mechanisms to implement these rules in spite of the difficult conditions and challenges prevailing inside the prisons. 

Participants were all responsive when he encouraged prison staff to familiarize themselves with the Mandela rules and use them to improve prison conditions that will reflect not only on the prisoners but on themselves as well. 

In parallel, at the Juvenile Wing, Nelson Mandela's story was shared with 14 children and young adults with offences related to violent extremism, including terrorism. Each one of them received an inspirational quote of Mandela on which they were requested to reflect and express their views and emotions. Their reactions varied from a total silence in the beginning, to some positive or negative thoughts about their life in prison. Some of them expressed the importance of patience and learning from this stage of their lives and some of them expressed a longing for freedom and safety. One sentence captured everyone's attention "Life is a novel, and prison is only a chapter of this novel, there are many chapters waiting for me." By the end of the day, children were invited to hang their quotes in their rooms to inspire them during their daily lives and actions, and to inform their inmates about what they experienced . 

The ceremony concluded with the official handover of a food distribution vehicle to the ISF for adequate and safe distribution of food to all Roumieh buildings.

The head of Roumieh prison was very pleased with this event and thanked UNODC and Italy for their support and stressed the importance of Mandela rules, which are stepping stones for the ISF to strive for the continuous improvement of prison conditions.