Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Commissioner Kaggwa (Photo credit: ACHPR)
Prisons in Africa are far below acceptable international standards

African prisons are far below acceptable international standards and those who are imprisoned still live in poor conditions, Commissioner Med S.K Kaggwa, the Special Rapportuer on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa said on Wednesday.

Kaggwa’s presentation on April 10 is part of the Activity Reports of Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to which he is a member. The 53rd Ordinary Session of the ACHPR is hosted by The Gambia from 9-23 April, 2013.

“Inmates are facing challenges such as insufficient food allocations, inadequate access to health care and medical services, and lack of hygiene, sanitation and water scarcity,” he said. “In most prisons, men and women share facilities”.

Women prisoners at risk

He stressed that “there is no strict separation within the prison according to the risk, men and women, children and adults, civilians and soldiers, suspected and already sentenced prisoners, are most of the time mixed indiscriminately together in the majority of the African prisons”.

This, he said, puts women prisoners at the risk of rape or attack by male inmates, prison guards or staff, noting that it violates women prisoners’ rights to safety and to privacy.

He also said that in most African prisons, there are no special detention facilities or rehabilitation or reformatory facilities and some children are held together with their detained mothers.

No special care

Commissioner Kaggwa further exposed that there is no special care for the sick prisoners, those infected with tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as those infected with HIV or those with AIDS and prisoners with illness.

Most often, he said, prisoners with mental illness are ignored by prison officials and those behaviors could pose a risk to staff or other prisoners. He noted that there are prisoners chained day and night or put in confinement or isolation without receiving any treatment for their condition.

He viewed the numerous prisons challenges in Africa as a product of lack of good governance, limited amount of funding to towards prisons and other prison resources and African governments’ failure to prioritize prisons’ rights.

He commended the NGOs and the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for their tireless efforts to improving prison conditions in Africa.

Fair and humane manner

In terms of prison management, Mr Kaggwa said, African governments should have prison systems that can be managed in a fair and humane manner, national legislation, policies and practices must be guided by the international standards developed to protect the human rights of prisoners.

“Prison authorities have a responsibility to ensure that the supervision and treatment of prisoners is in line with the law and with respect to human rights,” he said. “The period of imprisonment is used to prepare individuals for life outside prison following release.” 

Written by Modou S. Joof

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