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Philippines: policy meeting held to ease plight of detainees

19-06-2008 News Release 08/107

Manila (ICRC) – A meeting has been held of justice and correctional officials, various experts, staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and other interested parties including representatives of Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the European Commission.

The purpose of the gathering, which took place on June 18 and 19 in Quezon City, was to address gaps in the criminal justice system and poor prison conditions that are affecting the lives of thousands of inmates across the Philippines.

Philippine Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was among the figures who addressed the meeting. Others were Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona and Congressman Matias Defensor, chairman of the House of Representatives'Committee on Justice. Prior to the meeting, three working groups composed of technical experts, planning officers and other government officials had drawn up specific proposals for justice and penal reforms. They identified priorities and their recommendations were presented to the policy-makers and national and local government officials attending the meeting.

Since 1991, the ICRC has been working with the Department of the Interior and Local Government as well as the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to improve treatment and conditions of detention for inmates of jails run by the Bureau. In 2007, the ICRC issued a confidential report, " A Call to Action " , which it shared with senior officials from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Philippine government. Last week's meeting was a continuation of that process designed to produce practical measures to ease the plight of the country's detainees and their families.

Three areas have been identified that require action in the places of detention run by the Bureau. The first area is due process and judicial guarantees (e.g. p rocessing delays and insufficient monitoring of inmates'legal cases by defence lawyers). The second is detainee health (e.g. tuberculosis management). The third is detention conditions (water and sanitation, ventilation, living space, etc.).

The ICRC hopes that the working groups'recommendations, once endorsed by the top government leaders, will lead to improved treatment and conditions in the country's jails and that this process will be marked by international support and cooperation.

For further information, please contact:
  Roland Bigler, ICRC Philippines, tel. +918 907 2125
  Rene Guioguio, ICRC Philippines, tel. +918 944 83 98