The first ever Pacific Correctional Executive dialogue which was held at the Grand Hotel in Port Vila this week aims to strengthen and ensure humanitarian conditions inside all prisons in the region.
In his opening address, Head of Regional Delegation, International Committee of The Red Cross (ICRC) Vincent Ochilet said the organization aims to secure the human treatment and conditions of detention for all detainees, regardless of the reasons for their arrest and detention.
Mr Ochilet said ICRC is now seeking to alleviate the suffering of their families, particularly by restoring communication between detainees and their relatives.
He said this will only be done if we prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment, prevent and resolve disappearances, improve conditions of detentions, restore and maintain contacts and ensure respect for legal safeguards.
He added the meeting was taken to Pacific Islands after concerns that some of the countries in the regions needed more dedicated forums to focus on specific humanitarian and operational challenges and potential opportunities that are unique to the context.
“Therefore, the ICRC seized the opportunity to organize a forum adapted to the realities in the Pacific, which takes into consideration the humanitarian problem and the challenges faced by Pacific island countries,” he said.
“The ICRC has been helping detainees around the world since 1870, traditionally focusing on people held in connection with armed conflict and other situations of violence.
“Wherever we can, we also visit people detained for other reasons, in both criminal and administrative detention.
“Our work includes visiting detainees under the jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals, common law detainees and detained migrant”.
The ICRC head confirmed the organization visited more than 1 million detainees in over a thousand detentions around the world last year to ensure the prisoners are safe and well treated.
He dwelled on a popular quote from late Nelson Mandela who once said; “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest”.
He said the quote simply meant that the way a nation treats its detainees tells a lot about that nation.
The roundtable meeting is timely as on July 18 (next week), the World will recognize ‘Nelson Mandela Day’ but the time will also be used to reflect on and promote the internationally recognized roadmap to meet the minimum requirements for human prison system.
He said that that the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (The Nelson Mandela Rules) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 17, 2015 after a 5-year revision process.
He said although the rule is not legally binding it has provided guidelines for international and domestic law for people held in prisons and other forms of custody.
Mr Ochilet said they provide practical guidance on how prisons should be managed safely, securely, and humanly and offer a key measure against which to assess the extent to which states have attained minimum standards in protecting the life and dignity of detainees.
He said the discussion will come up with objectives that will provide opportunities to the Correctional Executive and leaders in the Pacific to discuss key areas of humanitarian concerns in detention and collectively identify solutions and best practices.
The Pacific Correctional Executives Roundtable ended yesterday.