The Mandela Rules in the spotlight at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace of Dakar

On 18 July 2017, the international community celebrated Nelson Mandela Day in tribute to the former President of South Africa, the icon of the anti-apartheid struggle. In his fight for rights, peace and democracy, Nelson Mandela has left an indelible mark: an imprisoned person, regardless of gender, age, race, crime committed or imposed sentence should, under no circumstances, be deprived of humanity along with his or her liberty.

Every year, this day is an opportunity to promote better conditions of detention, to raise awareness on the plight of inmates who are an integral part of society, and to recognize the importance of the social work conducted by prison staff. Bearing Nelson Mandela's legacy in mind, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 70/175 from 2015, revised the Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and called them the "Nelson Mandela Rules".

In Senegal, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized an afternoon of exchanges at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace (IDHP) of the Faculty of Legal Sciences, Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, in collaboration with the Penitentiary Administration of the capital. In total, more than 80 Human Rights Master's students participated therein to listen and comment on the contributions of Dr Samba Thiam, IDHP Director, Colonel Thiaca Thiaw, Prisoners Rights Professor and international expert, Colonel Daouda Diop, Director of the penitentiary administration, Inspector Samba Diouf, member of the penitentiary administration, and two representatives of the Justice Section of the UNODC Regional Office.

 UNODC team presented the Mandela Rules to students at university

Following the welcome speech from the Director of IDHP, UNODC presented the general framework of the Mandela Rules as well as their practicalities and the current challenges associated with their implementation in the region. Colonel Daouda Diop discussed the specific implementation of the rules in Senegal as well as the evolution of the rights of prisoners, notably in the Reubeuss Prison (Dakar). Finally, Colonel Thiaca Thiaw illustrated some recurrent problems in the prisons of countries in crises, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The session ended with questions and answers with the students, particularly interested in the social reintegration of prisoners.

In order to improve conditions of detention, Colonel Daouda Diop reminded the audience that prison administrations must not only comply "with their legal obligations but also with their moral ones". The Director of IDHP encouraged students to "add their piece to the puzzle" by occasionally donating books, clothing, or anything else that could contribute to the reintegration of prisoners into our society. The day was rich in exchanges and was a success for the represented institutions. Possible future collaborations with UNODC were discussed.

In addition, UNODC outlined its ongoing projects focused on tool development that aim to assist Member States in reforming their penitentiary systems. The assistance provided by the regional office touches upon legislative and regulatory reforms, improved prison management practices and capacities, protection of vulnerable groups and promotion of human rights.

In the framework of the Regional Programme for West Africa (2016-2020), UNODC works with Member States and their relevant institutions to, inter alia, strengthen legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks, protect vulnerable groups and promote human rights, as well as to address the reintegration needs of prisoners and to find alternatives to incarceration.

For more information:

Executive Director Statement

Regional Representative Statement

Nelson Mandela Rules

Nelson Mandela Rules Infographics

Regional Programme for West Africa (2016-2020)

Nelson Mandela Rules Infographics