International Committee of the Red Cross

Sri Lanka: Asia - Pacific forum on improving conditions in prison

News release 10 May 2016

Colombo (ICRC):- Sri Lanka will host the third Asia- Pacific Regional Correctional Managers Conference from 10-13 May 2016; the conference is organized by the Department of Prisons in Sri Lanka with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Nearly 50 senior officials from the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Hindu Religious Affairs, the Department of Prisons and the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation in Sri Lanka, and from the prisons departments of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Thailand will attend the seminar. ICRC delegations from most of these countries will also be represented at the event.

The theme of the conference is "Balancing Security and Humanitarian Needs in Prisons". Discussions will focus on the following subjects: the classification of detainees, prison design, the specific needs of women, trends in health care, medical ethics and strategic planning for change.

"The government of Sri Lanka is keen to undertake prison reforms to ensure improved humanitarian conditions, that there is no overcrowding in prisons and that the categorization of detainees is in line with offences so that prisons can be managed more efficiently and effectively", said Hon. Minister of Prison Reforms, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Hindu Religious Affairs D.M. Swaminathan. "Additionally, detainees should be assured of proper vocational training, counselling, sufficient time for family visits and access to legal aid and adequate medical facilities, while carrying out police searches to detect the use of drugs in prisons. Against this backdrop, the Asia- Pacific Regional Correctional Managers Conference will help countries to share lessons learnt and to formulate reforms that will make prisons more effective correctional centres".

The first Asia- Pacific conference was held in 2012 in Manila, Philippines and the second in 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Both focused on the issue of overcrowding in prisons.

"This event in Sri Lanka, which builds on the success of the two previous conferences, provides a unique opportunity for senior prison managers to share experiences, challenges and best practices", said Claire Meytraud, the head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka. "We are committed to working closely with the authorities of all these countries and to supporting their efforts to improve conditions of detention."

In Sri Lanka, the ICRC has been visiting places of detention since 1989 in keeping with its global humanitarian mandate; the aim is to help the authorities to provide adequate conditions of detention and humane treatment for all detainees.

For further information, please contact:
Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or + 94 773158844