Prisoners Have Rights Too, Says Cardinal

Vatican Official Opens Seminar

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2005 ( Prisoners do not lose their fundamental rights as persons, says Cardinal Renato Martino.

«An imprisoned man has the right to be considered … as a person,» asserted the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, when opening a seminar on the «Human Rights of Prisoners.» The pontifical council organized the event in Rome.

«Far from being something abstract, this consideration must animate politics and law, social preventive institutions, prison regulations, and the intervention in prisons of organizations of civil society,» he said today.

«In the world there are unfortunately situations of imprisonment and modes of detention which are even ‘pre-juridical,’ as they have not accepted the elemental protection of a person’s rights,» the cardinal observed.

The seminar, organized with the International Commission of Catholic Prison Ministries, has gathered some 80 experts and chaplains from 20 countries.

Christian Kuhn, president of the commission, said that the conclusions of the meeting will be presented at a U.N. congress on the prevention of crime and criminal justice, in Bangkok, Thailand, from April 18-25.

Among the speakers today were Silvia Casale, president of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Jean-Paul Laborde, head of the Terrorism Prevention Service at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, in Vienna, Austria.

The seminar will close Wednesday with a Mass in Rome’s Regina Coeli prison.

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