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U.N. rights experts call for proper toilets in prisons

A toilet inside a typical jail cell at the Century Regional Detention Facility is captured from a video footage taken in Lynwood, California near Los Angeles May 4, 2007. REUTERS/Reuters TV

GENEVA (Reuters) - People held in jails and other detention centres around the world frequently have no access to clean toilets; a violation of their basic human rights, three United Nations investigators said Wednesday.

In statements marking World Toilet Day, marked on November 19 since 2001, they said states and governments had the obligation to ensure that all prisoners could enjoy safe sanitation.

“Without it, detention conditions are inhumane, and contrary to the basic human dignity that underpins all human rights,” the investigators -- on torture, access to water and sanitation, and the right to the best possible health, declared jointly.

World Toilet Day is promoted by the World Toilet Organization (, founded in 2001 by Singapore entrepreneur Jack Sim as a global non-profit network aiming to improve sanitation and public health policies.

“In too many places, detainees in prisons, migrant detention centres, juvenile institutions, psychiatric hospitals and other state-run institutions are forgotten,” said Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Anand Grover, rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health, said unsanitary conditions “directly cause many diseases rife in places of detention.

“Access to sanitation is fundamental for a life in dignity, which all people are entitled to,” declared Catarina de Albuquerque, U.N. independent expert on human rights and access to sanitation.

“Even those convicted of heinous crimes must enjoy such basis rights,” she added.

Editing by Jon Hemming