UNODC ROSAF Reflects on and Commemorates the Nelson Mandela Rules

Four panellists, Mr Christoph Capelle, based in UNODC HQ in Vienna, Dr Henry Ndindi, UNODC ROSAF Malawi, Commissioner Clement Kainja and Mr Derrick Malumo, ex-prisoner and PREO founder, attended the webinar to discuss challenges and opportunities in implementing the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Zambia, July 22nd, 2021. On Nelson Mandela International Day (July 18th), the UNODC ROSAF hosted a global webinar to discuss gaps in and recommendations for adherence to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules (NMR).

UNODC led the revision of the Nelson Mandela Rules, which were ultimately adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. They emphasize that the provision of health care for prisoners is a State responsibility, and that the relationship between health-care professionals and prisoners is governed by the same ethical and professional standards as those applicable to patients in the community.

Mr Capelle touched base on the purpose of imprisonment, highlighted in Rule 4 of the Nelson Mandela Rules, which highlights the rehabilitation and reintegration approach of prison systems. “However, the two biggest obstacles that hinder a successful rehabilitation are the lack of resources and the increasing overcrowding rate in prisons”, he remarked. Dr Ndindi presented a useful checklist for internal and external inspections with the objective of ensuring that prisons are managed in accordance with existing laws, regulations, policies and procedures, as well as the Nelson Mandela Rules. Commissioner Kainja commented on the tremendous impact the NMR have had on prison reform systems and transformation in Malawi. He reiterated that “these rules have helped to promote good practices in the treatment of prisoners and the management of penal institutions in Malawi and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region”. Mr Malumo discussed the importance of applying the NMR during the time prisoners serve their sentence and while they are in the process of reintegration, and emphasised that “the fair and humane treatment of prisoners had to include the conditions of the facilities they are held in too”.

The webinar shone a light on the actual implementation of NMR in prisons and their immediate impact on prison conditions. It is key to understand that these rules should go hand in hand with country-specific strategies, and more funding should be allocated in implementing renovations and improvement of prison facilities, as well as health services and the overall human rights of the inmates. Internal and external inspections are an excellent way to monitor the management of these facilities and to spot gaps and potential issues to the implementation on NMR.


Additional resources:

The Nelson Mandela Rules: Protecting the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty

Tokyo Rules (alternatives to imprisonment) 

Strategies to reduce overcrowding in prisons

Additional background material