Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law. 

No one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Inhuman treatment or punishment is treatment which causes intense physical or mental suffering. It includes:

  • serious physical assault
  • psychological interrogation
  • cruel or barbaric detention conditions or restraints
  • serious physical or psychological abuse in a health or care setting, and
  • threatening to torture someone, if the threat is real and immediate.

Degrading treatment means treatment that is extremely humiliating and undignified. Whether treatment reaches a level that can be defined as degrading depends on a number of factors. These include the duration of the treatment, its physical or mental effects and the sex, age, vulnerability and health of the victim. This concept is based on the principle of dignity - the innate value of all human beings.

No person should suffer conditions that threaten their life, dignity or health. And no matter how far away from home they should not feel desolate, frightened or alone. Prisoners Abroad translates human rights law into practical life-saving actions by providing prisoners access to vitamins and essential food, emergency medical care, freepost envelopes to keep in touch with home and books and magazines to help sustain mental health. 

Our Human Rights Advisor

Hear from our Human Rights Advisor, Melina, who advises on human rights concerns which arise in cases of British nationals detained or imprisoned overseas.  

The Nelson Mandela Rules 

The Standard Minimum Rules are often regarded by states as the primary – if not only – source of standards relating to treatment in detention, and are the key framework used by monitoring and inspection mechanisms in assessing the treatment of prisoners. Find out more


Hundreds of men and women are being forced to sleep on prison floors every month in Ireland with the “entirely unacceptable” conditions in some of the State’s jails being condemned as a breach of basic human rights. Read more

The 18th of July is Mandela Prisoner Rights Day, established to promote humane conditions of imprisonment, to raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society, and to value the work of prison staff as a particularly important social service. 

Long-term imprisonment can be devastating to people; losing their freedom for the most part of their lives. It is therefore unsurprising that morale can fall, and a loss of belonging and sense of isolation can set in. It is really important for us to remind people that they are not forgotten and are important, no matter how long their sentence may be. Someone who we are supporting in Australia has been there for over 25 years now and tells us how the lengthy time inside has changed his attitude to life and the outside world. Read more