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 5th periodic visit to North Macedonia conducted from 2 to 12 December 2019 together with the response from the authorities.
The CPT’s delegation received many allegations of physical ill-treatment of criminal suspects by police officers during the 2019 visit. Persons complained of being subjected to slaps, punches, kicks and blows with truncheons and other objects at the time of their apprehension or inside a police establishment for the purpose of extracting a confession. The report includes the details of several cases where the delegation found medical evidence to support the allegations. The CPT recommends that a series of measures be taken by the authorities, including holding to account senior officers for their line-management responsibilities and training on modern crime investigation techniques. Further, the safeguards such as access to a lawyer and notifying a third person of a person’s custody must be applied from the outset of a person’s deprivation of liberty. There is also a need to improve the effectiveness of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment.
The report is highly critical of the persistent failure of the authorities of North Macedonia to address certain fundamental shortcomings of the prison system. Immediate action is required to address the lack of a professional approach in managing complex situations within the prison system, the poor management and performance of staff, the low staffing levels, the poor quality of health-care provided to inmates, the lack of an appropriate regime on offer to inmates, the high-levels of inter-prisoner violence, the squalid material conditions and the endemic corruption of staff. These problems are most acute at Idrizovo Prison which holds more than 60% of the overall prison population. The report describes in detail the inhuman and degrading conditions found in the main accommodation areas of this prison. The longstanding deficiencies at Skopje Remand Prison, both as regards material conditions and an absence of any meaningful regime are once again listed.
At Ohrid Prison, some juveniles held in the facility alleged that they were subjected to slaps, punches and blows with non-standard truncheons if they did not behave correctly. The CPT recommends that staff be provided with training on de-escalation and restraint measures and that management exercise a better oversight of their work. It is also essential that all juveniles held in this prison are offered a full and tailored programme of activities, which was far from the case at the time of the visit.
As regards the psychiatric hospitals of. Demir Hisar and Negorci, the CPT recommends that steps be taken to increase the complement of psychiatrists and to develop the provision of therapeutic and psychosocial activities based on a multi-disciplinary approach and individualised patient treatment plans. At Demir Hisar hospital, steps must be made to ensure all patients are effectively able to benefit from outdoor exercise every day. More generally, much more needs to be done to advance the process of de-institutionalisation by establishing adequate community-based mental health services.
At Demir Kapija Special Institution for Mentally Disabled Persons, the main social care establishment in the country, the report urges the authorities to provide regular access to open air to all residents, to increase the number of care support staff and to increase the offer of rehabilitative activities. In addition, courts need to ensure a regular and prompt review of the residents’ placement decisions.
The response of the authorities of North Macedonia provides information on the steps taken to implement the recommendations made by the CPT. In particular, the authorities give an account of the measures adopted in response to the CPT’s urgent requests (i.e. closure of some problematic wings at Idrizovo Prison, provision of regular water supply at Kumanovo Prison and refurbishments at Skopje Prison). Further, information is provided on the opening of the Tetovo Correctional and Educational Centre and the renovations of wards at Negorci Psychiatric Hospital and Demir Kapija Special Institution.