Rights of Prisoners

A man was allegedly tortured by the police while in their custody. The man died in custody. The man’s widow petitioned the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on behalf of her deceased husband. The Supreme Court cited the Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and held that the widow not only had the right to file suit on behalf of her deceased husband, but also that there existed in Sri Lanka a constitutionally protected right not to deprive of life, as well as a right to life. The Court said, “The interpretation that the right to compensation accrues to or devolves on the deceased's lawful heirs and/or dependants brings our law into conformity with international obligations and standards, and must be preferred.” The Court then ordered a total compensation of 800,000 rupees to the wife and child of the deceased.

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A man was arrested. While in police custody, he was subject to mistreatment by the police, for which he went to the hospital. Before the Supreme Court, he sought compensation for his medical bills beyond any compensation for the mistreatment he endured. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka allowed this medical bill compensation, citing Article 12 of the ICCPR. The Court said, “Citizens have the right to choose between State and private medical care, and in the circumstances the Petitioner's wife's choice of the latter was not unreasonable -and was probably motivated by nothing other than the desire to save his life. Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right of everyone "to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health" ".

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A man was arrested for allegedly stealing bananas. He was detained in a Sri Lankan prison. While in custody, he died. The petitioners claimed that he was subjected to assault by prison authorities and died of the injuries incurred. Such treatment, it was argued, was violative of the man’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka agreed, citing a previous UNHRC case in which a prisoner’s rights under the ICCPR were found to have been violated. The Court also cited standards of prisoners’ rights under the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, as well as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. Relying in part on these authorities, the Court ruled that the prisoner’s rights under the Sri Lankan constitution had been violated. The Court then said that the respondent prison officials were under a duty to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that the persons kept in the Prison [we]re treated with kindness and humanity.” The Court then awarded the petitioners 1,000,000 rupees (about $8,900USD).

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The High Court of Fiji cited the ICCPR and the ICESCR when it protected the rights of a prisoner as per the Constitution. The Court ruled against a directive by the Commissioner of Prisons to punish a prisoner by reducing the food ration.

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