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Measures for Securing the Implementation of Universal Suffrage for Prisoners


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Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants [CURE]
A National Effort to Reduce Crime through Criminal Justice Reform
Spring 2002

Chapter Development

National CURE is pleased to announce that it has received a $20,000
grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The chapter
development grant will be used to train leaders and to provide a
library of helpful materials geared to the needs of each
participating chapter. To date, leaders of eighteen chapters have
volunteered to participate. Contact us for more information on how
you can become a chapter leader.

Restorative Justice

CURE is a cosponsor of Restorative Justice Week April 14-21.
For more info, contact Tony Brown, 4600 Robertson Rd., #113, Moscow,
ID 83843 208-882-5416. Email
restorativejusticeweek2002@... or see website
http://fcrjquaker.org

Human Rights For All

Besides the Report Cards, countries were asked to introduce a
resolution for adoption by the General Assembly of the UN that
implements universal suffrage for prisoners. Although most countries
in principle allow prisoners to vote, in reality it can be almost
impossible.

If a country will introduce this resolution, CURE will work to pass
it in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the first step toward having it
voted on by the UN General Assembly of all 190 nations which meets in
New York City.

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RESOLUTION FOR ADOPTION BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS

MEASURES FOR SECURING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE FOR
PRISONERS

The General Assembly,

Mindful of its vital role in ensuring human rights and self
determination among all peoples of the world;

Reflecting on the critical need for implementation of voting rights
among all peoples in all nations to ensure peace, justice and human
dignity;

Recalling the commitments made by Member States in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, including Article 21: "Everyone has the
right to take part in the government of his country, directly or
through freely chosen representatives" and that "The will of the
people shall be the basis of the authority of government",
which "shall be expressed in periodic and geniune elections...by
universal and equal suffrage";

Recalling further the European Convention on Human Rights, Protocol
1, Article 3: "The...Parties undertake to hold free elections at
reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which
willensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the
choice of the legislature";

Noting the importance of this right as expressed in the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 25: "Every citizen
shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the
distincitons mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable
restrictions...to take part in the conduct of public affairs,
directly or through freely chosen representatives;...to vote...at
genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal
suffrage...by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the
will of the electors...";

Noting further the Preamble of the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: "In accordance with the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings
enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if
conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his...civil and
political rights"; Article 1(2) of the Covenant declaring: "All
peoples have the right of self-determination", which "enables them to
freely determine their political status", protected in Article 4 from
all limitations except those "determined by law... as...compatible
with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of
promoting the general welfare in a democratic society";

Recalling the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination which through Articles 1 and 5 bars
distinction that nullifies or impairs "Political rights, in
particular the rights to participate in elections...to vote...on the
basis of universal and equal suffrage...";

Recalling further the American Convention on Human Rights, Article
23: "Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and
opportunities...to take part in the conduct of public affairs,
directly or through freely chosen representatives...to vote...in
genuine and periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal
suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of
the will of the voters";

Noting also the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, Article
13: "Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the
government ofhis country, either directly or through freely chosen
representatives";

Convinced that the right to vote constitutes one of the most
fundamental of all human rights, without which the will of the people
is suppressed and human rights abuses may proceed undeterred;

Mindful that the nature of the institutional environment in prisons
may render them likely repositories of human rights abuses unlikely
to occur elsewhere, such as wrongful detention, torture, cruel and
inhuman treatment, denial of medical care, and other abuses of
governmental authority constitutiong a pattern and practice of abuse;

Aware that harm from such abuse accrues not solely to individuals,
but to society as a whole;

Mindful that the exercise of civil and political rights by prisoners
who are paying their debt to society, and ex-prisoners, who have
fully discharged that debt, not only guards against the erosion of
institutional conditions which threaten society as a whole, but also
provides a meaningful tool for rehabilitation and preparation for
future contributions as memebers of free society;

Noting that many prison populations consist disproportionately of
racial and ethnic minorities, and that, therefore, denial to
prisoners of the right to vote results not only in their exclusion as
a class from the right to vote, but also may result in the dilution
or cancelling out of the voting strength of entire racial or ethnic
minorities in a given State or political subdivision;

Convinced that specific "reasonable restrictions" upon the right to
vote which may be applicable under certain of the above instruments,
which as minimum age, mental competence, and even, as in the American
Convention, sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings,
cannot properly be applied under international law to impose a
sweeping and automatic exclusion of prisoners and ex-prisoners as a
class from the fundamental right to suffrage;

Aware of the fact that voting rights provisions contained in the
above-referenced instruments do not currently enjoy full
implementation by all signatory nations;

Persuaded by over fifty years' experience in seeking to implement the
mission of the United Nations, that no meaningful human rights agenda
may be effectuated without protection of fundamental human rights of
all persons in all places, regardless of their race, religion,
economic or other status in life, and that sweeping exclusion of any
class of persons in incompatible with the fundamental and universal
status of the right to suffrage;

Noting that the free exercise of the right to vote by all peoples
will assist in the attainment and preservation of the level of
democracy necessary to ensure peace, justice and the implementation
of all other human rights for all people everywhere;

Urges all States to commit by this resolution to take all measures
necessary to implement universal and equal suffrage in their
respective countries, including prompt adoption of such domestic
legislation as may be necessary to effectively ensure this
fundamental human right for all disenfranchised persons of every
status in life, including prisoners and ex-prisoners, in accordance
with international human rights obligations and the general welfare
of all peoples.