Experts Meeting on the Development of Guidelines for Pre-Trial Detention



The Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa invites you to a meeting of experts to consult on draft Guidelines for Pre-Trial Detention for possible adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission). A consultation draft of the Guidelines is herewith attached for your reference.



The experts meeting will be held during the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on 12 April 2013 in Banjul, The Gambia and will be the first of several consultations that will be held on the subject. Details of the meeting are as follows:

Date: 12 April 2013
Time: 14.00 
Venue: Paradise Suites Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia 
Contact: Tem Fuh on; and Sean Tait at APCOF on;


The over-use and poor conditions of police custody and pre-trial detention have been identified as a prevalent but overlooked area of criminal justice reform in Africa. Approximately 43.3 percent of detainees across Africa are pre-trial detainees, with statistics ranging from 7.9 percent of the total prison population in Namibia, to 88.7 percent in Libya (source: World Prison Brief). These figures are unlikely to include detainees in police lock-up, and may therefore be significantly higher. 

Pre-trial detainees often exist in the shadows of the criminal justice system, as their detention and treatment are not generally subjected to the same levels of judicial and other oversight as sentenced prisoners. Overall, pre-trial detainees experience poorer outcomes than sentenced prisoners in relation to conditions of detention, the risk of torture and other ill-treatment, susceptibility to corruption, and experience conditions of detention that do not accord with the rights to life, humane treatment and the inherent dignity of the person. Pre-trial detention has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable and marginalised, with pre-trial detainees more likely to be poor and without means to afford legal assistance or to post bail or bond. The over-use of pre-trial detention, and conditions of detention that do not accord with basic minimum standards, undermine the rule of law, waste public resources, and endanger public health.

In order to address the challenges faced by Africa’s police forces in achieving a rights-based approach to the use and conditions of police custody and pre-trial detention in Africa, the African Commission at its 52nd Ordinary Session in 2012, adopted Resolution 228 on the need to develop guidelines on conditions of police custody and pre-trial detention in Africa. Resolution 228 acknowledges the pressing need to articulate a set of guidelines aimed at minimising the risk factors associated with excessive and arbitrary arrest and detention. While many of the obligations on States in relation to arrest and detention are contained in various instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), the Robben Island Guidelines and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, collating these in a single instrument and outlining practical measures will be of significant value. 

The police are key players and often the first experience people have with the criminal justice system. Their actions and non-actions have a significant impact on the use of pre-trial detention and on subsequent steps in the criminal justice system. Guidelines will provide a ready to use template for State Parties to the African Charter, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and civil society observers for reporting on issues to the African Commission, and will support the mandate of the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention. The Guidelines will also provide an authoritative reference point for further support, including training materials and reporting tools.

If you are able to attend please complete the attached reply form.

If you are unable to attend the proposed meeting please forward your comments on the draft to Tem Fuh on and Sean Tait at APCOF on along with the reply form  by 12 April 2013.

We look forward to your participation.