Mandela rules for the Treatment of Prisoners launched

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha says the unveiling of the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners will provide a useful guide of how offenders should be treated when in prison. 

Masutha said this when speaking at Drakenstein Correctional Centre, formerly known as Victor Verster Prison, in the Western Cape on Tuesday. 

Drankenstein is the prison where the former President was put under house arrest after leaving Robben Island. It was a very politically sensitive era in the history of South African politics, which saw some of the negotiations to end apartheid being held at the facility where Mandela was incarcerated. 

In an interview with SAnews shortly after the launch, Masutha said the rules, which have come to be known as the Nelson Mandela Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, come with several interventions that ensure prisoners are treated in a humane way. 

“The United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which is the reason we are gathered here today, were adopted in December 2015 by the United Nations as a revised version of the 1955 rules.

“[They] set the minimum standards on how prisoners around the world should be treated in terms of their access to nutrition and healthcare; incarceration under humane conditions, and to access a whole lot of rights, which fortunately for us as country, are already covered in our law and in particular in our Constitution,” he said. 

The event was also attended by, among others, Corrections Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. 

Earlier this year, Masutha announced that as part of commemorating the centenary of the world icon’s birthday, the department would launch the rules at the prison where Madiba was eventually released on 11 February 1990. 

Previously acknowledged as the Standard Minimum Rules (SMRs) for the Treatment of Prisoners, the rules were first adopted in 1955. In 2015, they were revised to accommodate recent advances in correctional services and best practices, and were adopted as the Nelson Mandela Rules. 

The United Nations Member States recognised that the SMRs were outdated and did not reflect major human rights and criminal justice developments since their adoption in 1955. 

“As South Africa, we are pleased to have hosted the workshop that led to the revision on Robben Island [of the rules] under the leadership of Judge President Mlambo.

“We thank him for the leadership he played at the time and as government, we are committed across the security, peace and stability cluster, that even though they are non-binding, they provide a very useful guide on how to ensure that the standards we uphold in this country are compatible and comparable to international standards,” Masutha said. –