Mr Palm's remarks on the occasion of the commemoration of International Human Right Day on 10 December 2010
Remarks on the occasion of the commemoration of International Human Right Day Cultural Center of Media and Publications of Defence “Expose of Human Right” values organised by General Directorate of Prisons
Thank you for this invitation. This is a very significant activity. Today, we commemorate the International Day of Human Rights. We remind ourselves, that everyone has human rights. Men, women, young people, older people, those who speak different language, rich people, poor people, we all have the same human rights. This includes those in detention, who may have had an unfortunate past. It is one of the most important signs of a modern democratic state, that people in detention are recognized to have human rights. This activity is important, because Albania can demonstrate the will and its efforts to ensure basic human rights even for people that society has decided should be temporarily locked away.
I wish to congratulate the Albanian Government, the Ministry of Justice and the General Directorate of Prisons for working hard to humanise the penitentiary system - the prisons. There is visible progress. Much has been achieved. We recognise the long way that Albania has come. Albania under the communist regime knew only the punitive approach, without respect for universally recognised human rights. Speaking of human rights in detention was unthinkable. Albania has made a long journey. I believe we all – the government, the professionals, international community, civil society, artists, inmates, men and women – will continue to promote human rights for the most invisible to the society, those who are behind bars.
It takes all of us, regardless who we are. Whether we have a big job or a small job, whether we earn a lot of money or are in debt, whether we are a politician or a business men, we can promote human rights and help ensure that our fellow citizens can live in dignity. If you do so, as Martin Luther King said “you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a better world to live in”.
As the representative of UNICEF, let me turn to the rights of children, including those in detention. The Kavaja institute is setting a new standard for treatment of juveniles in the Albania penitentiary. There are more committed staff, also for education and social work. This is very good. In particular, I wish to thank the director and staff of the Kavaja institute, the civil society organizations involved, and especially Mr. Dibra, for your commitment, openness, foresight and leadership. You have a very hard, but noble job. The juveniles in Kavaja can be glad to have you there.
I still want to mention two points: First, juveniles in pre-trial detention are innocent until proven guilty. Those detained in places other than Kavaja also need to enjoy their right to education, development and protection. They need to have access to legal and psychosocial services.
Second, for juveniles, pre-trial detention must remain a measure of last resort, and the time-spent in pre-trial detention need to be the shortest possible. Pre-trial is not a way of discipline. In Albania, around 70% of juveniles spend their court sentence in full while in pre-trial. This is a human rights issue. The time for investigation and the judiciary process for juveniles must be expedited.
Finally, I like to address the inmates and in particular the juveniles. We all make mistakes in life. Your probably made big mistakes. But we can accept, understand, and learn from mistakes. Do not lose hope. Set your eyes on goals, and respect the human rights of others. This exhibition of artistic skills demonstrates that you are going in the right direction. Thank you