Geneva/Amman (ICRC) – A regional conference on health care in prisons, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), started today in Amman. The three-day meeting is being attended by prison directors and health-care experts from 11 Middle East countries and by specialists from the ICRC.
The event, inaugurated by Jordan's health minister, Dr Abdul Latif Wreikat, represents the first time the ICRC has brought together prison management staff and health-care professionals from an entire region to discuss how to enhance medical services for detainees. The organization has organized meetings of this kind at the national level for several years in various countries around the world.
"The objective is to bring to the table everyone who can have an impact on the health care provided for detainees," said Dr Raed Aburabi, who coordinates the ICRC's activities relating to detainee health care. "It is extremely encouraging to see the participants' willingness to make concrete proposals in this area."
"Detainees have a right to health care, a right that is sometimes not sufficiently recognized," said Dr Aburabi. "More specifically, detainees have a right to a standard of care that is at least equivalent to that provided in the broader community. Sick detainees should be considered, first and foremost, as patients."
Conference participants will discuss such issues as the importance of striking a balance between security considerations and health-care needs, the role of medical doctors inside prisons and the division of labour among the various ministries involved in detention-related matters at the national level.
The ICRC visits detainees to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive, and to bring about improvements where necessary. It discusses its findings directly and confidentially with the authorities concerned.