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International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). ICCPR is a treaty adopted on Dec. 16, 1966 at the UN General Assembly and implemented on March 23, 1976. This multilateral treaty enjoins signatories to honor civil and political rights of individuals such as their right to life, free speech, freedom of assembly and religion, electoral rights, as well as right to due process and a right to a fair trial.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). CAT is an international law adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1994 and enforced on June 26, 1987. It commits parties to undertake measures to prevent torture in any form within their jurisdictions. These include ensuring laws that ban torture, investigation of allegations of torture, the grant of compensation to victims of torture, and the prosecution of torturers. Parties are banned from using evidence or information produced from torture in courts. They are also disallowed from deporting, extraditing or refouling people who have substantial grounds that they will be tortured in the places they will be deported or extradited to. CAT requires signatory states to prevent “other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture.” As of writing, 83 states have signed the convention, including the Philippines.
On Dec. 18, 2002, the UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). OPCAT establishes an international system for inspecting prisons and areas of detention. The Philippines acceded to the OPCAT in 2012.
The UN General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners on Dec. 14, 1990. Among others, it declares that (1) all prisoners shall be treated with respect and dignity; (2) prisoners shall not be discriminated against because of their race, color, sex, religion, language, political beliefs, or social origin; (3) prisoners shall be accorded respected for their religious beliefs and customs; (4) maintenance of prisons and prisoners must be in line with the state’s other social objectives of protecting all members of society;
(5) Except for the limitations of their incarceration, all prisoners shall retain their human rights and fundamental freedoms as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants the state is party to; (6) all prisoners have a right to cultural activities and education; (7) efforts must be made to abolish solitary confinement as punishment, or restrict its use; (8) prisons must allow for prisoners to undertake meaningful remunerated employment that would help them reintegrate into society; (9) prisoners shall have access to health services; and (10) favorable conditions must be undertaken to help prisoners reintegrate into society.
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Also called the Mandela Rules in honor of longtime political prisoner and former South African President Nelson Mandela, it was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 17, 2015. The rules cover minimum standards in prisons like personal hygiene; clothing; bedding of prisoners; as well as instruments of restraint; contact outside of prisons; mechanisms for complaints; notification of prisoners’ illnesses, transfer, or death; quality of prison personnel; and prison inspections, among many others. These are considered “soft laws” in the Philippines.
Other international treaties, covenants and principles applicable to prisons and prisoners:
• Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (1988)
• Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1975)
• Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987)
• Principles of Medical Ethics Relevant to the Role of Health Personnel, Particularly Physicians, in the Protection of Prisoners and Detainees Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1982)
• Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955, 1957, and 1977)
• UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice or the Beijing Rules (1985)
— PCIJ, March 2022