July 18 – Nelson Mandela International Day


Nelson Mandela International Day was established by the decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2009 and is timed to his birthday, July 18th. In the relevant resolution, the UN highly appreciates Nelson Mandela’s achievements in the field of human rights, noting his commitment to “serving humanity as a humanist in conflict resolution, interracial relations, reconciliation, equality, and improving the situation of the poor”.

For his principled position in opposing racial discrimination in South Africa, Nelson Mandela has spent 27 years in prison since 1964. There, despite the inhuman conditions of detention, he continued the struggle, due to which over time he gained international fame. The Nobel Peace Prize, which Nelson Mandela received in 1993, became recognition of his achievements. Next year, following the results of the first multi-racial elections, he became the leader of the Republic of South Africa. During his office, Nelson Mandela implemented a number of important reforms aimed at overcoming social and economic inequality. After retirement, he continued his public work, directing efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

However, the activities of Nelson Mandela in ensuring humane conditions of imprisonment were most famous, which was reflected in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. This document establishes the following principles for the treatment of persons whose freedom is limited:

1) All prisoners shall be treated with respect and should not be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

2) There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status;

3) The prison system shall not aggravate the suffering of inmates, whose freedom has already been limited;

4) The purposes of a sentence of imprisonment are primarily to protect society against crime and to reduce recidivism. Those purposes can be achieved only if the period of imprisonment is used to ensure the reintegration of such persons into society upon release, which means they must be provided with education, vocational training and work, as well as other forms of assistance;

5) The prison regime should seek to minimize any differences between prison life and life at liberty that tend to lessen the responsibility of the prisoners or the respect due to their dignity as human beings.

On the 101st anniversary of Nelson Mandela, we have to state with regret that the problems of humane treatment of people held in penitentiary institutions continue to be relevant in the modern world. These issues are particularly acute in connection with the conflict in the territory of Donbass.

In the Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine for the period from February 16 to May 15, 2019, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to record violations and infringements on human rights and freedoms, including arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and threats of physical inviolability. Thus, the document noted that the Security Service of Ukraine “arbitrarily detain, torture, ill-treat and intimidate individuals, including in unofficial places of detention, in order to obtain information, pressure them to confess or cooperate.” OHCHR indicates a steady practice of prolonged trials and the use of detention pending trial in conflict-related criminal cases “as a method to pressure defendants.”

At the same time, the initiative to sign the Declaration Condemning all Forms of Torture, iIl-treatment, Sexual Violence and Threats of Violence Against Persons Detained in Connection with the Conflict, which has been proposed by OSCE Coordinator in the Humanitarian Subgroup Tony Frisch, was not supported by the Ukrainian side. The representative of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Humanitarian Subgroup, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic Daria Morozova in her statements repeatedly called upon official Kiev to sign this important document.

The destructive position of the Ukrainian side in this matter resulted in such incidents as the death of a Russian volunteer Valery Ivanov, who died in December last year as a result of serious bodily harm caused  by employees of a Ukrainian penitentiary institution, cases of Yulia Prosolova and Daria Mastikasheva, who were subjected to moral and physical pressure.

The Ombudsman of the Donetsk People’s Republic regularly informs international human rights organizations about these and other grave violations of international law in order to improve the fate of persons held in Ukraine in connection with the conflict, as well as to promote humane treatment of them and respect for their rights.