Posted by: APO | 5 October 2007

SUMMARY OF UNOCI WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE

SUMMARY OF UNOCI WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE

                 (Abidjan, 4 October 2007)

 

 

    UNOCI presents its second report on Ivorian prisons

 

Positive changes, particularly in terms of respect for the physical integrity of prisoners and an improvement in their medical care, have been noted in penitentiaries in Cote d’Ivoire, the head of the Rule of Law section of the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Françoise Simard, stated on Thursday in Abidjan.

 

Speaking during the Mission’s weekly press conference, Ms Simard presented her section’s second report on the situation in penal establishments in Côte d’Ivoire. The report, which had already been presented to the Ivorian prisons and judiciary authorities earlier on Thursday, 4 October 2007 at a meeting attended by the diplomatic corps, international organizations and non-governmental organisations, covers a 12-month period, from May 2006 to May 2007. It is based on the monitoring of 22 penal establishments in the south and the five in the north.

 

The first report, published on 26 August 2006, had painted a dark picture of the situation in Ivorian prisons. Since then some of the concerns it raised have been taken into account by the national administration, resulting in some positive changes being made, according to the Rule of Law section.

 

The second report notes, however, that prison conditions are still precarious for prisoners, particularly with regard to nutrition and health care. “All these serious problems demand urgent solutions and more effort from the government,” Ms Simard pointed out. She said that, despite an increase in funds for the provision of food in 2006, prisoners continued to receive only one meal without much nutritional value per day. On this issue, she welcomed the considerable efforts made by organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) through its nutritional programme, which has led to a significant reduction in the prison mortality rate: the number of deaths in prisons decreased from 445 in 2005 to 87 in 2006.

 

The report also highlighted the problem of overcrowding, noting that each prisoner lived in 2.5 m2 of cell space, far below the 11m2 required by international standards. The report also raised the issue of women and children, including mothers with babies, in prisons. While these vulnerable groups represent a small percentage of all inmates, their treatment still does not comply with international standards or with Ivorian law. For example, due to a shortage of female prison warders, women are guarded by men at night.

 

Ms Simard mentioned the problem of facilities, which was also raised in the first report. “They are in a very advanced state of dilapidation, to such an extent that there is a risk of the prison system collapsing if measures are not taken in terms of financial, material and human resources,” she warned, adding that the most prisons have not been rehabilitated for at least ten years.

 

Concerning the management of prisons, the Rule of Law chief explained that because of the shortage of staff, security was not assured inside prisons: prisoners manage prisoners, which leaves room for much abuse and favouritism.

 

The report makes recommendations and requests the Government to envisage a plan for the rehabilitation of prisons in the centre, north and west and to determine the existing needs in terms of personnel in anticipation of the redeployment of the administration, which is envisaged within the framework of efforts to end the crisis. UNOCI’s Rule of Law section works with NGOs and various authorities in the development of plans and the identification of the donors for the rehabilitation and renovation of prisons.

 

Earlier, the Director of UNOCI’s Public Information Office, Ms Margherita Amodeo, urged all Ivorians to become resolutely involved in the success of the mobile court hearings. The Mission fully supports the Ivorian authorities in this process: it observes the hearings and is part of a communication group on mobile courts set up by the Ivorian Government.

 

Touching on another subject, Ms Amodeo pointed out that the UN exploratory mission which is currently in Cote d’Ivoire came to study a request by President Laurent Gbagbo for an independent international inquiry into the assassination attempt on 29 June 2007 against the Prime Minister. The mission is not in the country to conduct an investigation, she specified, explaining that a report will be made to New York on the basis of the information gathered. The mission has welcomed the availability and collaboration of the Ivorian authorities, she noted.

 

Finally, Ms Amodeo reminded journalists that UNOCI’s Human Rights Division was holding a national information workshop for 40 Ivorian NGOs on the theme: “Techniques of surveillance, investigation and reporting on violations of human rights”, at the offices of the International Labour Office (ILO) in Abidjan.


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