THE International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) last week handed over its decade-long prison support programme aimed at improving prison management, infrastructure rehabilitation, food supply chain management and treatment of detained mental health patients, to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS).
BY RUTENDO MATANHIKE/ FARAI MATIASHE
The partnership between ICRC and ZPCS began in 2009, with the former being given the greenlight to access and monitor prison conditions and treatment of inmates.
ICRC head of mission Thomas Merkelbach said he was certain that ZPCS had the capacity to carry on with the programme.
“I would like, on the behalf of the ICRC together with ZPCS, to mark this milestone in our decade-long co-operation from 2009 to 2018 with the handover of the ICRC’s prison support programme. We believe the programme has significantly improved the living conditions of thousands of inmates as well as their treatment,” he said.
Merkelbach said beyond the inmates, some of the projects carried out had benefited ZPCS officers through capacity-building and improved working conditions.
“From the very start, our assistance was meant to be temporary and aimed at capacitating the ZPCS. As the then Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa put it: Help us to help ourselves,” Merkelbach said.
The ICRC head said the programme was aimed at ensuring detainees were treated with dignity and human rights were upheld.
Merkelbach said his organisation would continue working with government, Parliament and other relevant institutions to promote the respect, integration and implementation of international humanitarian law.
Speaking at the same event, ZPCS Deputy Commissioner-General Alford Dube commended ICRC for the role it played in uplifting human rights in prisons.
“The coming on board of the ICRC was, thus, a welcome development, as it sought to make up for the gaps that the ZPCS was experiencing, which gaps were seemingly serving as additional punishment to inmates,” he said.
“You will agree with me that incarceration is enough punishment and should not be seen as taking away some basic human rights such as the right to food and right to shelter.”
Since 2009, ICRS and ZPCS worked together in improving treatment of inmates in 46 prisons around the country.
ICRC contributed in boosting cultural production, particularly at Chikurubi Prison Farm, improving water and sanitation, capitalising the ZPCS manufacturing sector with regards to the manufacturing of inmates’ garments and providing capacity training workshops for prisons staff.