UNODC visits Niamey Prison on Nelson Mandela Day
On 18 July, the international community celebrates Nelson Mandela International Day. That day, which is the date of his birth, is a way to pay a tribute to the struggle of the inspirational leader, former President of South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison during Apartheid.
On that date, special attention is given to the work of the prison staff, and to the fact that prisoners are an integral part of society and therefore must be treated with dignity and their human rights must be respected.
Taking advantage of a training being held in Niger, the UNODC justice team chose to mark this day with a visit to Niamey prison. The UNODC delegation, led by Ms. Veronic Wright, Chief of UNODC Justice section, and accompanied by Mr. Abdoulaye Sirfi, Director of the Penitentiary Administration at the Ministry of Justice, was received by the Director of the prison, Captain Abdou D.
Ms. Wright recalled that UNODC is contributing to the defense of prisoners' rights, notably via the recent assignment of 10 United Nations volunteers to a few prisons in the country, including that of Niamey. The mission of these volunteers is to provide legal assistance to detainees, in particular to the persons suspected of terrorism. Captain Abdou D. thanked UNODC for the initiative of visiting the prison and ensured its full support to an effective and lasting partnership with the organization.
The UNODC delegation then distributed T-shirts and posters bearing the image of Nelson Mandela, as well as copies of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Detained, or "Nelson Mandela rules".
The ceremony ended with the visit of the prison. The UNODC delegation were shown the miners' and women's wards. While the conditions for minors are relatively satisfactory, with fairly spacious rooms, a large courtyard and a workshop aiming at preparing their reintegration; the women's side was overcrowded. The UNODC team was informed that this is due to slow processes. Indeed, the majority of the women detained were awaiting their trial.
At the end of the visit, the delegation gave words of encouragement to the prison staff for the difficult but necessary work that they are doing and recalled the importance of inalienable principles such as human dignity and Human Rights.
In the framework of the Regional Programme for West Africa (2016-2020), and through the implementation of the Sahel Programme, UNODC works with Member States and their relevant institutions to, inter alia, strengthen legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks, protect vulnerable groups and promote human rights, as well as to address the reintegration needs of prisoners and to find alternatives to incarceration.