From: Andy Worthington
See also: Stop Isolation
Public figures, intellectuals, former prisoners and human rights activists have today, Friday 10 December, issued a statement calling for an international ban on long-term solitary confinement and prisoner isolation.
Supporters of the statement include US academic Noam Chomsky, US author and poet Alice Walker, former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, former prisoners Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlon (wrongly convicted over IRA bombings in England), former Beirut hostage Terry Waite, lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, barrister Michael Mansfield QC, Emeritus Professor David Brown (University of New South Wales, Australia) and Richard Haley (Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities).
10 December is International Human Rights Day and marks the anniversary of the proclamation in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The “Stop Isolation” statement says that enforced long-term isolation in all circumstances breaches Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The statement has been published on a new website, “Stop Isolation,” which aims to encourage international collaboration to put an end to long-term solitary confinement.
Read the rest here.
End Prisoner Isolation — The Full Statement
Jails around the world hold prisoners who have endured years of solitary confinement or other forms of isolation. The enforced long-term isolation of any person is a cruel and inhuman violation of their inalienable rights and needs as members of the human family. The long-term isolation of prisoners has to stop.
Scientific evidence shows that prisoners held in long-term isolation commonly suffer severe damage to their mental health. It should be self-evident that whether a prisoner manifests such damage or not, the suffering that he or she endures is torturous, cruel and inhuman. Few of us can properly imagine what such a prisoner goes through.
In the USA hundreds of prisoners are held in extreme isolation in the “supermax” prison known as Administrative Maximum, Florence, Colorado (“ADX Florence”), a federal prison. Tens of thousands more prisoners are held in extreme isolation in “supermax” State prisons and in special units at other facilities within the Federal and State prison systems. Many of these prisoners have been held in isolation for years; some have suffered isolation for decades.
Isolation in US prisons commonly involves solitary confinement with minimal human contact of any kind, even with prison staff. Prisoners are typically held in their cells for 23 hours a day. Exercise is typically taken in an isolated space outside the cell. Isolation can also mean the confinement of two prisoners in a single isolation cell — a situation potentially even worse than solitary confinement.
Prisoners in other jurisdictions around the world also suffer prolonged solitary confinement. A report published in October 2008 by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture named China, Denmark, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Paraguay as well as the United States as giving cause for concern. In the same year, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern over prolonged isolation in “supermax” facilities in Australia. In 2009 the Committee expressed concern over the use of solitary confinement in Israeli prisons.
We believe that prolonged, enforced isolation is unjustifiable in any circumstances. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed as a punishment, or to coerce information or a change of behaviour from the prisoner, or for any other purpose. It is unjustifiable whether it is imposed before trial or after conviction. It is unjustifiable whether of not it is imposed through legal process.
Long-term isolation is the antithesis of norms that have come to be accepted in much of Europe and in many other parts of the world. The drift away from these norms must be resisted.
Where, exceptionally, a prisoner cannot safely or beneficially be afforded the kinds of social interaction normal within humanely-run prisons, exceptional and effective steps must be taken to provide the prisoner with human contact that is clearly adequate in the interests of his or her human and psychological well-being.
We believe that enforced long-term isolation in all circumstances breaches Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
We call upon the countries of the world to enact legislation that prohibits long-term prisoner isolation, and prohibits the transfer of prisoners to countries where they would be at risk of such treatment.
Dungeons should not be tolerated in the 21st century.
Supporters (all in a personal capacity)
Clive Stafford-Smith (lawyer and director of Reprieve)
Frances Webber (barrister, London, UK)
Moazzam Begg (former Guantánamo prisoner, director of Cagepriosners, UK)
Noam Chomsky (Institute Professor & Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, MIT, USA) Alice Walker (author, USA)
Lord Anthony Gifford QC (barrister, Jamaica and UK)
Michael Mansfield QC (barrister, UK)
Daniel Machover (Chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights)
Frank Barat (Coordinator Russell Tribunal on Palestine)
Bill Bowring (barrister and Professor of Law, Birkbeck, University of London, UK)
Aamer Anwar (criminal defence lawyer, Glasgow, UK)
David Brown (Emeritus Professor, University of NSW, Sydney Australia)
Terry Waite CBE (former Beirut hostage, UK)
Omar Deghayes (former Guantánamo prisoner, UK)
Paddy Hill (Birmingham Six, UK)
Gerry Conlon (Guildford Four, UK)
Ronnie Kasrils (writer, activist and former government minister, South Africa)
Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Nobel Peace laureate 1976, Northern Ireland)
Cynthia McKinney, former member of the US Congress and 2008 presidential candidate, Green Party, USA)
John McManus (Miscarriages of Justice Organisation Scotland, UK)
Richard Haley (Scotand Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Julia Davidson (Scotand Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Desmond Fernandes (Genocide and prisoner isolation scholar, London, UK )
Estella Schmid (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Saleh Mamon (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Les Levidow (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK)
Maryam Hassan (Justice for Aafia Coalition)
Pushkar Raj (General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, India)
Sharon Shalev (Solitary Confinement.org)
Jeffrey Ian Ross (Associate Professor, University of Baltimore, USA)
Hans Toch (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University at Albany, State University of NY, USA)
Andy Worthington (journalist and author, UK)
Tam Dean Burn (cultural worker, Scotland, UK)
R. Hugh Drummond (Edinburgh, UK)
Adnan Siddiqui (a director of Cageprisoners, UK)
Arzu Merali (Islamic Human Rights Commission, UK)