Regional Symposium on Female Prisoners’ Rights Concluded [Archives:2001/30/Reportage]

July 23 2001

Under the auspices of the Yemeni Minister of Human Rights, Dr. Wahiba Fare’, the Sisters Arabic Forum ‘Al-Shaqa’iq), in collaboration with the International Legal Group for Human Rights, have concluded their regional symposium in Sana’a on the protection of female prisoners’ rights. The symposium took place from 25 till 27 of June 2001.
During the 3-day symposium, more than 40 participants discussed 18 working papers presented by a number of experts and legal specialists representing Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Malaysia, Pakistan and the USA. They discussed female prisoners’ affairs in their respective countries and formulated the following recommendations :
First: Recommendations related to arrest and trial :
1- To emphasize the importance of special centers for females arrested during criminal investigations and trials.
2- To urge the government to create a number of awareness campaigns which would enlighten the commissioners of judicial authorities to respect the law and enforce it properly.
3- The interior and justice ministries should work together to publish special bulletins on the various crimes and laws, as well as the procedures followed by the commissioners of the judicial authorities for public prosecutions.
4- To offer professional legal advice to people who may have been treated unfairly or had their legal rights infringed, with the aim of filing lawsuits where appropriate against those commissioners who may have abused their legal rights.
5- Urging the concerned authorities to send those commissioners who have allegedly mistreated female prisoners to be formally investigated and, if necessary, put on trial according to the law.
6- To activate the role of non-governmental organizations to coordinate with governmental authorities with the aim of organizing symposiums and seminars, so as to increase popular awareness of the law and civil rights.
7-To provide training programs for commissioners of the judicial authorities to learn how to deal properly with female prisoners according to the principles of both national and international law.
8- To force the commissioners always to inform arrested women about their constitutional and legal rights in written form. All procedures enforced without the signature of detained women should be null and void.
9- To urge all civilian organizations to support an awareness campaign on human rights concepts enshrined in national legislation and international charters, such as charters outlining the basic legal requirements when dealing with prisoners in society.
10- To urge the authorities responsible for investigations to question detained women during daylight hours only.
11- To urge the concerned authorities to rely on female police officers to conduct investigations into detained women.

Second: Recommendations related to periods spent in prison :
1- The participants stressed the importance of activating the role of the Human Rights Ministry, the Supreme International Commission for Human Rights and all other human-related parliamentary and Shoura committees of human rights to closely scrutinize prisons and female prisoners, so as to ensure that female prisoners are being treated well.
2- They called on civic institutions to pay whatever financial compensation is owed to female prisoners, as well as to protect them both inside and outside their prison cells.
3- They stressed the importance of separating female from male prisons, and also advised providing them with nurseries and penitentiaries for children of female prisoners.
4- They advised the providing of all medical requirements and first aid services for female prisoners, and also called for the establishment of health units, including psychological clinics, for female prisoners.
5- Organizing training and educational sessions on human rights for female prisoners.
6- Subjecting female prisoners to comprehensive medical tests, especially for AIDS and hepatitis.
7- Improving the skills and qualifications of female police officers.
8- Urging the government to construct Legal Consultative Units in prisons, as well as facilitating the work of volunteering legal offices in offering legal consultation to female prisoners.
9- Setting aside areas within female prisons for prayers, which should also include clean water and all other necessary requirements.
10- Organizing courses to help eradicate illiteracy, as well as vocational training in female prisons.
11- Creating confidence among female prisoners, so as to improve their level of performance, and also intensifying the monitoring of the efforts of workers in female prison workers.
12- Publishing guide books which explain female prisoners’ rights and obligations and which should be given to prison officials according to the law.
13- Paying female prisoners allowances for cleaning services in prisons.
14- Giving female prisoners social security pensions presented by the Social Care Fund, which should legally be provided from the very beginning of their sentence.
15- Improving food quality and quantity by providing a greater variety of meals, as well as employing specialized cooks rather than depending on female prisoners themselves to cook, otherwise the female prisoners should be paid for cooking.
16- Providing specially built blocks for female prisoners, with rooms where they can spend time with their husbands.
17- The bathrooms of female prisoners should be improved and provided with clean water, soap and sanitary napkins.
18- Female prisons should be provided with libraries and TVs and should be permitted to buy their own radios.
19- Distributing the Human Rights Fund that was established according to a republican decree to serve female prisoners.

Third: Recommendations related to the post-release period:
Participants in the regional symposium concluded that the main problem facing female prisoners in their home countries is the social reaction towards them after being released from prison, regardless of the crimes they may have committed. This negative social reaction contradicts the principal aims of prison sentences, which should be based on reform as well as punishment. Consequently, the symposium made the following recommendations :
1-Urging social institutions, the public and private mass media to eradicate negative social opinions and reactions towards females who have served time in prison, as well as helping them reintegrate into society as law abiding citizens.
2-Urging the government, the private sector and social institutions to establish specialist centers to provide shelter and qualify women who have been released from prison, specially those who have been rejected by their families. These centers should be well-furnished and contain all necessities that would be required by female prisoners. The centers should also prepare female convicts to become beneficial and productive in society.
3-Supporting all individual, social and governmental efforts to communicate with families of female prisoners. Those individuals should include social figures, religious officials and tribal sheikhs. All such individuals have a social obligation towards newly released female prisoners, supporting awareness campaigns which aim to improve the treatment of and respect for female prisoners, since their circumstances differ significantly from those of male prisoners.