Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UN urges ban on solitary confinement

Oct. 18, 2011 BBC
The UN's lead investigator on torture has called for governments to end
the use of long spells of solitary confinement in prison.

Juan Mendez said such isolation could cause serious mental and physical
damage and amount to torture.

He said it should not be used on people with mental disabilities or

Mr Mendez said short term isolation was permissible for prisoner
protection but all solitary confinement longer than 15 days should be

He told a UN General Assembly human rights committee that solitary
confinement as practised in a majority of countries was "subject to
widespread abuse".

Mr Mendez, a professor of law at American University in Washington, cited
studies indicating harmful physical and mental effects after just a few
days of solitary confinement.

"Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may
cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention,
indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental
disabilities or juveniles," he said.

"Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the
hole, secure housing unit... whatever the name, solitary confinement
should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion technique."

He said it was estimated that in the US, 20-25,000 prisoners were being
held in isolation.

Mr Mendez also criticised Chinese authorities for keeping a woman in
isolation for two years out of an eight-year sentence for supplying state
secrets to foreigners.

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