[JURIST] The top UN human rights expert on torture, Juan Mendez [official profile], called Monday for the adoption of the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners [backgrounder] in an open letter to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice [official website]. The revised Rules include several practical elements that provide increased protection for detainees from torture and maltreatment, including a specific prohibition on the use of extended solitary confinement, which is defined as confinement that exceeds 15 days. The revised rules also incorporate safeguards that prohibit cruel treatment and put a burden on independent health care professionals who have a duty not to participate in torture. The approval of a resolution during the twenty-fourth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will allow the revised rules to move forward and be examined by the UN General Assembly in December.
Mendez was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and has dedicated his career to the defense of human rights. In March Mendez released a report saying substantial progress [JURIST report] has been made in Georgia with regard to eliminating torture in their prisons. The improvements have been in large part due to extensive legislative policy changes and shifts in the attitudes and mentalities of staff. In November the UN reported that Mendez had been blocked from completing a torture and killing investigation [JURIST report] in Gambia. In September Mendez urged Saudi Arabia to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] following an increase in executions, with a significant number of the executions completed by beheading.