South Africa

Wits Justice Project

DCS launch the Nelson Mandela Rules, but more awareness needed

Photo: A student looks at cutlery and plates in the replica of Nelson Mandela's Robben Island Prison Cell during its launch at Spine Road High School in Cape Town, South Africa, 26 September 2016. Former South African president and Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in a cell of these exact proportions for 27 years. This mobile replica will make its way around the country to enable young people who have never been to the Robben Island Museum to get a personal perspective of the history that unfolded on Robben Island and South Africa. Photo: EPA/NIC BOTHMA

In celebration of Former President Nelson Mandela’s centenary, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), in partnership with the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice launched the Nelson Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners at Drakenstein Correctional Centre (previously Victor Verster Prison) on Tuesday.

The Nelson Mandela Rules deal with the humane treatment of prisoners – including prison conditions, transportation and prisoner health.

The Nelson Mandela Rules, also known as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, were adopted by the United Nation General Assembly in 1955.

They were subsequently revised in 2015 and renamed the Nelson Mandela Rules “to accommodate recent advances in correctional services and best practices,” says spokesperson for DCS, Singabakho Nxumalo.

Nxumalo adds: “The rules are not a legally binding international agreement, and are not intended to describe in detail a model system of penal institutions. They seek only to set out what is generally accepted as being good principles and practice in the treatment of prisoners and prison management.”

However, investigations by the Wits Justice Project which have uncovered human rights abuses inside South African prisons reveal that the Mandela Rules seem to have been ignored since their adoption. DM

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