The Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, has called on prisons wardens to respect rights of inmates, saying they are like other citizens of society.
He was speaking at Huye Prison in Southern Province, on Tuesday, as Rwanda Correction Service (RCS) joined the international community to celebrate the Nelson Mandela Day 2017, also known as Mandela Prisoner Rights Day.
“Inmates’ fundamental rights must be respected. There are several human rights but all are included in the main one, which is ‘the right to life’. This partly explains why the government abolished the death penalty in 2007,” the minister said.
The day was marked under the theme, ‘Rights of inmates are fundamental to their rehabilitation’ in part to demonstrate commitment to uphold Nelson Mandela rules for treatment of prisoners.
The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were initially adopted by the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955.
On December 17, 2015 a revised version of the Standard Minimum Rules was adopted unanimously by the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, reflecting recent advances in correctional science and best practices.
The revised rules are known as the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’ in honour of the late President of South Africa, Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life in prison.
Mandela recommended enjoying fundamental rights such as right to food, shelter, medical assistance, hygiene, communication and those related to human dignity.
The celebrations featured various activities such as a football match, drama, plays, poems, arts exhibition, and discussion on the implementation of the Mandela rules.
George Rwigamba, the Commissioner General for RCS, said that celebrating prisoners’ day in Rwanda underscored the country’s commitment to respect of rights of all people.
“Prisoners are detained to be corrected so that the country can rely on them as responsible citizens in the future. It is why their rights must be respected,” Rwigamba said.
Cassien Manzi, the president of inmates at Huye Prison, said Government promotes humane conditions in prisons where by inmates have access to fundamental needs which gives them hope of a brighter future and see it as a golden opportunity to reshape their lives.
In 2009, United Nations General Assembly declared July 18th the Annual International Nelson Mandela Day. The Day recognises and honours Mandela’s commitment to building a democratic, united, non-racial prosperous society.