UN deplores conditions for women in prison

Press release
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(Bangkok, Paris) The Thai government must take concrete steps to implement the recommendations made by a United Nations (UN) body in order to improve the conditions for women in prison, FIDH and its Thai member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) said today.

On 24 July 2017, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) released its Concluding Observations on Thailand following the review of the country’s combined sixth and seventh periodic reports on 5 July 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Committee oversees state parties’ compliance with their legal obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

“The CEDAW’s conclusions reaffirm that conditions in Thai prisons remain well below international standards for the treatment of women. These international standards are, ironically, named after the Thai capital and it’s regrettable that Thailand fails to fully implement them.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

In its Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed concern over the fact that Thailand has one of the highest rates of women in detention in the world. The Committee also raised concerns about women often being incarcerated in prisons far from their families, and in overcrowded conditions that fail to meet international standards, which is particularly problematic for pregnant women and women detained with their children.

The CEDAW called on the Thai government to take urgent measures to reduce the number of women in detention and to improve the conditions in women’s detention facilities in accordance with the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the ‘Bangkok Rules’) and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules’). It also recommended that Thailand prohibit invasive physical searches of women by penitentiary officers.

“The failure by successive Thai administrations to address the issue of prison conditions has left women particularly vulnerable. The government must take urgent and concrete steps to address prison conditions, starting with the chronic issue of overcrowding.”

Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn, UCL Chairman

The concerns and recommendations expressed by the CEDAW echoed those raised by FIDH and UCL in their joint shadow report submitted ahead of the review of Thailand. The shadow report documents how women prisoners in Thailand are disproportionately affected by poor detention conditions. The CEDAW’s recommendations are also consistent with those contained in the joint FIDH/UCL report “Behind the walls – A look at conditions in Thailand’s prisons after the coup”, which documents how conditions in Thai prisons examined by FIDH and UCL violate the country’s obligations under international instruments to which Thailand is a state party.

Since 2005, the issue of poor prison conditions in Thailand has been highlighted by several UN human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the Committee against Torture (CAT), and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). The UN bodies have all expressed ongoing concern over the high level of overcrowding and conditions that fail to meet international standards.

Press contacts
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (English, French) - Tel: +33143551412 (Paris)
UCL: Mr. Danthong Breen (Thai, English, French) - Tel: +66814502254 (Bangkok)
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