Back Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Sweden

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its fourth periodic visit to Sweden, which took place in June 2009. The report has been made public at the request of the Swedish Government.

The overwhelming majority of the persons met by the CPT’s delegation during the 2009 visit who were, or had recently been, detained by the police, indicated that they had been correctly treated. Nevertheless, the delegation heard a few allegations of physical ill-treatment by police officers. The report pays attention to the procedural safeguards against ill-treatment and concludes that further action is required in order to bring the law and practice in this area into line with the Committee’s standards. The CPT has also invited the Swedish authorities to further develop the system of investigating complaints of police ill-treatment, with a view to ensuring that it is independent, impartial and effective.

In the report, the CPT once again expresses concern about the procedure for the application of restrictions to remand prisoners and the impact of such measures on their mental health. At the time of the visit to Gothenburg Remand Prison, restrictions were being applied to 46% of the prisoners, some of them having been subject to long periods of isolation (up to 18 months). The overwhelming majority of the prisoners met had been given no explanation of the reasons for the restrictions imposed on them. The CPT has made a number of recommendations aimed at ensuring that the imposition of restrictions on remand prisoners is an exceptional measure rather than the rule.

The situation of prisoners held in high-security units and segregated for administrative reasons was another focal point of the visit. The report stresses that a move towards a more intensive security provision in prisons – unless it is justified on the basis of an objective, case-by-case assessment – can render the complex task of safely managing prisons more rather than less difficult, and would be corrosive rather than protective of human rights. Further, the CPT has recommended that the Swedish authorities establish a clear distinction between segregation for administrative reasons and segregation on disciplinary grounds, and review the regime for prisoners placed in administrative segregation.

Material conditions in the prisons visited were generally of a good standard, and genuine efforts were being made at Hall and Kumla Prisons to engage prisoners in a range of purposeful activities. However, the regime for inmates subject to restrictions remained impoverished.

The continuing practice of holding immigration detainees in prisons is another issue of concern for the CPT. The Committee has recommended that urgent steps be taken to ensure that persons detained under aliens legislation are not held on prison premises.

As regards the two Migration Board centres visited, in Märsta and Gävle, the report gives an overall positive assessment of the situation there. However, the CPT has made a number of recommendations designed to improve the provision of health care to immigration detainees.

At the two psychiatric establishment visited – the Department for Forensic Psychiatric Assessment in Huddinge and the Psychiatric Clinic South-West in Huddinge – the atmosphere was relaxed and material conditions were of a very high standard. However, at the Psychiatric Clinic, there was a lack of staff in charge of rehabilitative and occupational activities and, as a result, treatment relied exclusively on pharmacotherapy.

The report draws attention to allegations received at the Fagareds Home for Young Persons of excessive use of force by staff to control violent and/or recalcitrant residents. Further, the CPT has recommended that a system for the systematic recording of episodes of segregation be set up at the Fagareds Home, as well as in all other institutions for young persons in Sweden.

The Swedish Government is currently preparing its response to the issues raised by the Committee.

The CPT’s report is available in English on the website

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