Introductory Note: United Nations Revised Rules on Treatment of Prisoners

International Legal Materials, Vol. 55(6), 2017

4 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2017

Date Written: January 16, 2017


The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners on December 17, 2015. To honor the late South African President Nelson Mandela’s well-documented struggle against human rights abuse under the South African apartheid regime and his lifelong dedication to the promotion of equality and human dignity, the rules are known as the ‘Mandela Rules’. The Mandela Rules expand those adopted in 1955 by the First UN Congress on the prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. In the intervening years, related international instruments have outlined the minimum standards of treatment for specific categories of individuals in detention. The revised rules benefit from five years of consultation by the Expert Group 5 across UN Member States, criminal justice experts, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organization and many other States, international organizations and NGOs. The updates clarify that minimum standards require not only multi-layer consideration of the detained individual, but also an in-depth consideration of those employed in any form in relation to the treatment of those deprived of their liberty.

Keywords: Mandela Rules, Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners, Human Rights, Human Dignity, Prohibition against Torture

Suggested Citation

McCall-Smith, Kasey L., Introductory Note: United Nations Revised Rules on Treatment of Prisoners (January 16, 2017). International Legal Materials, Vol. 55(6), 2017 , Available at SSRN:

Kasey L. McCall-Smith (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom


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