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Police should improve interviewing practices to prevent ill-treatment, says Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) today stressed the need for police forces to improve the way suspects are interviewed when carrying out criminal investigations.
26/04/2019
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Police should improve interviewing practices to prevent ill-treatment, says Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee

In its annual report, the CPT indicates that in some countries police interviewing is still aimed at obtaining confessions, thus increasing the risk of ill-treatment, whereas it should be focused on obtaining accurate and reliable information about matters under investigation.

The Committee notes that, in the majority of Council of Europe member states, most detained persons with whom CPT delegations spoke had not suffered any kind of police abuse. It also welcomes significant improvements across the continent in preventing police ill-treatment.

However, the CPT underlines that the infliction of ill-treatment during police interviews remains a very serious problem in a significant number of countries. Within the last ten years, in almost one third of Council of Europe member states the Committee received allegations of police ill-treatment that could be qualified as torture.

In order to prevent police ill-treatment, the report recommends that national authorities develop clear rules or guidelines on the carrying out of police interviews based on a so-called investigative interviewing approach. Such an approach is “non-accusatory” and reduces the risk of human error and false confessions. It has been developed in several Council of Europe member states, and has inspired the CPT in its monitoring work. It is also gradually achieving broad acceptance at the universal level.

Mykola Gnatovskyy, President of the CPT, said: “Significant progress in the prevention of police ill-treatment has been achieved in some countries but much more has to be done to eradicate this phenomenon in the entire Council of Europe area. We cannot expect any significant culture change within police services unless there is a strong commitment at the national level, a greater police accountability and a modern approach to police interviews.”

In addition, the report encourages states to follow a trend observed in some countries of keeping persons in police custody in centralised police detention facilities rather than in police cells in smaller establishments. The CPT has frequently gained a positive impression of the functioning of such central police detention facilities.

Another recommended measure is to have designated custody staff who are also tasked with overseeing the practical implementation of fundamental safeguards against ill-treatment (notification of custody, access to a lawyer, access to a doctor).

During 2018 the CPT organised 18 visits to member states. Eight were regular visits and ten were ad hoc visits carried out to examine specific issues.

In 2020 the Committee intends to carry out regular visits to Azerbaijan, Finland, Germany, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Serbia, Spain and Sweden.

Interview with Mykola Gnatovskyy, President of the CPT:


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Preventing torture in Europe
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