Rights of prisoners must be respected: NHRC

October 11th, 2008 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) Coming out strongly against human rights violations of prisoners, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Saturday said that rights such as medical assistance and contact with family members must be respected. Illegal detention, the commission added, was still one of the biggest challenges that they were countering.Celebrating its 15th anniversary, which also coincides with the Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week (Oct 6-12), the commission organised a two-day workshop on detention which will conclude Sunday.

NHRC member B.C Patel said that the commission keeps receiving far too many complaints on human rights violations of detainees in prisons from across the country.

Reiterating a part of the report on detention which the commission released, as two other reports on mental health care and rehabilitation of displaced persons, Patel said that a suspect kept in police custody, before he is being sent to judicial custody, is often subjected to unfair treatment.

“Lock ups should be a place for detention and not torture. The commission has formulated guidelines saying that a person under arrest must be produced before the appropriate court within 24 hours of arrest, he should have access to his lawyer and family and the method of interrogation used should not be torturous and humiliating,” Patel said.

Also referring to a report by the National Police Commission (NPC), Patel said: “As per the third report by the NPC, 60 percent of arrests are unjustified or unnecessary and such arrests leads to 42.3 percent of the expenditure of the jails - which can be avoided”.

“A majority of the complaints that we receive are about picking up and illegal detention of victims. In this regard, until respect for human rights is inculcated in the police personnel at induction level and senior officers don’t disapprove it, this problem will not be solved,” he added.

Suggesting reforms, Baroness Vivien Stern, honorary president of Britain’s Penal Reforms International, who was the chief guest at the workshop, said there should be mandatory inspections in prisons by rights bodies such as the NHRC.

“Prisons should be run by civilians who are professionally trained. There should not be cruel punishments and regular inspections by such bodies like NHRC or state human rights commission should be conducted to ensure no unjust treatment,” she said.

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