CHRI urges for a human rights-based prisons policy in Tanzania

July 18,  2018 

New Delhi, India

Drawing from Nelson Mandela’s spirit of compassion and justice on his birth centenary, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) expresses serious concern about recent statements by Dr. John Magufuli, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, on the treatment of prisoners. CHRI believes they set a wrong precedent for what constitutes reform and can pave the path towards violating prisoners’ rights.

As reported by the media, at the swearing in ceremony of the new prisons chief, the President advocated for treating prisoners as ‘free labour’, making them work ‘day and night’ and to ‘kick’ them if they show laziness. He also added that prisoners should not be entitled to ‘conjugal visits’ during the period of their detention and stated that ‘underemployment’ of prisoners encouraged ‘drug use’ and ‘homosexuality’ in prisons. In this backdrop, he indicated that immediate reforms in prisons’ management need to take place.

“We urge Tanzanian authorities to respect and uphold the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’), which are universally accepted and provide guidelines to national legislations for prison management,” said Sanjoy Hazarika, of CHRI.

The Rules explicitly prohibit prison labour of an afflictive nature, require equitable remuneration for work by prisoners, and demand robust protections of prisoners’ health, safety and dignity. Likewise, the Rules protect prisoners’ right to maintain contact with the outside world, both by correspondence and receiving conjugal visits at regular intervals.

CHRI strongly emphasises that the basic principles of human rights, as enshrined under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), mandate that individuals need to be treated with humanity and with respect for human dignity. We remind the Government of Tanzania of the aims of the National Prison Policy of 2014 requiring it to ensure the observance of international conventions and human rights

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