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Humane conditions of detention

The Human Rights Committee has stated that the duty to treat detainees with respect for their inherent dignity is a basic standard of universal application. States cannot claim a lack of material resources or financial difficulties as a justification for inhumane treatment. States are obliged to provide all detainees and prisoners with services that will satisfy their essential needs. Failure to provide adequate food and recreational facilities constitutes a violation of Article 10 of the ICCPR, unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Committee has also stated that prolonged solitary confinement may amount to a violation of the prohibition against torture and ill-treatment in Article 7 of the ICCPR.[1]

The Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners provide that states should undertake efforts to abolish solitary confinement as a punishment or to restrict its use.[2] The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners specify that ‘corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offences.[3] The CPT has stressed that solitary confinement can have “very harmful consequences for the person concerned” and that, in certain circumstances, solitary confinement can “amount to inhuman and degrading treatment” and should, in all circumstances, be applied for as short a period as possible.[4]


[1] Human Rights Committee General Comment 20, para. 6.

[2] Principle 7 of the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners.

[3] Rule 31.

[4] CPT/Inf/E (2002) 1, p.20 para. 56(2).