UNODC promotes deradicalization and reintegration for high risk detainees and suspected terrorists

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The situation of Sahel States is exacerbated by a growing pressure on their prison systems. Indeed with national (and localised) prison overcrowding rates among the highest in the world, exceeding 230% according to UNODC estimates, detention conditions in Sahel states (Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania) raise a number of security and human rights concerns.

These are further aggravated by the increasing presence of high risk detainees suspected of being extremist terrorists in penitentiary institutions throughout the region. The threat of radicalization for common criminals is real, while the risk of recurrences of terrorist acts is considerable, unless adequate reintegration and radicalization prevention measures are made available to institutions.

Niger is particularly concerned with the management, treatment, and prevention of radicalization along with the security of high-risk prisoners, that is, those indicted of terrorism. Consequently Nigerien authorities have begun an assessment on the management of these suspected extremist terrorists, aimed at developing a reintegration program.

Following this perspective, UNODC organized, in collaboration with the heads of prison administrations in Niger, and the support of the government of Austria, an interdisciplinary workshop on the safety of high-risk detainees and a review of the national plan for the reintegration of prisoners, held in Niamey from 28 to 30 April 2015. This workshop was made possible thanks to the contribution of Denmark.

Participants during the interdisciplinary workshop, 28-30 April 2015
Participants during the interdisciplinary workshop, 28-30 April 2015

The event brought together representatives from many ministries, including Justice, Interior, Education and Public Health, as well as members of the General Inspectorate of Penitentiary Administration, the Court of Appeal, specialized services of social assistance and the private sector. This process, facilitated by experts from Algeria and Tunisia, strengthened the conceptual framework of the national plan for rehabilitation, preparation before release and community support following release.

In this regard, the Director General of the prison administration of Niger and other participants acknowledged the high rate of prisoners awaiting trial, the slow processing of defendants' files, and, lastly, the large number of people - some of which are minors - arrested for acts of terrorism.

The development of a system evaluating the impact of reintegration initiatives on public safety and the prevention of recidivism was also discussed by the participants. These concluded on the need to strengthen the capacity of prison managers in the management of high-risk inmates and their rehabilitation.

As part of the contribution of UNODC to the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, penal reform efforts aim at ensuring the respect detainees' rights, as stipulated by the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. To these add the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) and other relevant international instruments, in particular international conventions on human rights.

In line with these international instruments, UNODC's efforts aim to establish and promote the implementation of alternatives to imprisonment, along with social reintegration programs based on an individualized system of assessment, classification and treatment of prisoners. Although these programs are directed to the entire prison population, targeted assistance for high-risk prisoners should facilitate the implementation of effective initiatives, particularly to counter the threats posed by radicalism and organized crime in the Sahel region.

This activity was funded by the Denmark and was implemented in the framework of the UNODC Sahel Programme.