Tilbage Anti-torture Committee publishes report on periodic visit to Montenegro focusing on police, prisons, psychiatry and social welfare establishments

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 periodic visit to Montenegro, which took place from 9 to 16 October 2017, together with the response of the authorities.
Anti-torture Committee publishes report on periodic visit to Montenegro focusing on police, prisons, psychiatry and social welfare establishments

Despite some overall improvement in the treatment of persons detained by the police since the 2013 visit, the CPT received a significant number of allegations of physical ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by police officers. The alleged ill-treatment consisted of punches, slaps, kicks, baton blows, strikes with non-standard objects and the infliction of electro-shocks from hand-held electrical discharge devices either at the time of apprehension or in the course of police interviews. The CPT concludes that persons deprived of their liberty in Montenegro still run an appreciable risk of being ill-treated by the police and that the police senior management must tackle this phenomenon through stricter competitive recruitment criteria, better training activities and improved oversight.

An analysis of the effectiveness of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment carried out by the CPT shows that there is a need for the Internal Control Department of the Ministry of Interior to be more independent. Further, prosecutors need to conduct more thorough investigations into cases of alleged ill-treatment by police officers. Concerning the investigations into the cases of alleged police ill-treatment following the October 2015 mass protests in Podgorica, the report concludes that the failure of the authorities to implement the CPT’s previous recommendations (such as the requirement for members of police intervention groups to wear a clearly visible identification number), resulted in members of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SAJ) not being prosecuted despite inflicting severe injuries on a number of persons. The report makes several recommendations to counter impunity in future.

The CPT is highly critical of the continued de facto lack of access to a lawyer for persons deprived of their liberty by the police and of the material conditions in police cells which remain unsuitable for detaining persons up to 72 hours. These issues should be urgently addressed by the authorities.

As regards prisons, the efforts invested in the reform of the penitentiary system since 2013 are positively noted in the report. Nevertheless, the report refers to a significant number of allegations of physical ill-treatment consisting of slaps, punches and kicks and to the prolonged fixation of inmates for several days with metal hand- and ankle-cuffs and chains to a bed. The Montenegrin authorities must put an end to the current practice of fixating prisoners.

In respect of the regime, the report describes the practice of keeping remand prisoners locked up in substandard cells for 23 hours a day for months and years on end with no purposeful activity as a “relic of the past”. A structural change of mentality is required from the prison and judicial authorities to remedy this situation.

At Dobrota Special Psychiatric Hospital, the CPT found that psychiatric patients were treated respectfully by staff. However, the report is critical of the chronic overcrowding which led to several patients having to sleep on mattresses on the floor. This situation was exacerbated by the fact that around one-third of the patients of the establishment did not require further hospitalisation but could not be discharged due to the absence of adequate community care facilities. The report is also critical of the prolonged prescription of benzodiazepines to psychiatric patients.

The situation at Komanski Most Institution for People with Special Needs and Ljubovic Centre for Juveniles was in general positive: a relaxed atmosphere reigned between staff and residents and a wide range of rehabilitative activities was on offer.

In their response, the Montenegrin authorities provide information on the action taken to address the Committee’s recommendations, notably in relation to the various allegations of police ill-treatment, the plans to renovate the prison estate and provide more activities to prisoners and the on-going efforts to tackle the problem of overcrowding at Dobrota Special Psychiatric Hospital.

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