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

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its visit to Albania in February 2014, together with the response of the Albanian authorities.

The main focus of the visit was to review the action taken by the Albanian authorities to implement recommendations made by the Committee after previous visits, in particular as regards the treatment of detained persons and conditions of detention in police detention facilities and prisons. The Committee also examined the situation of patients who were held in psychiatric institutions on an involuntary basis.
The majority of the persons interviewed by the CPT’s delegation indicated that they had been treated correctly whilst in police custody. Nevertheless, a significant number of credible allegations were received from detained persons (including juveniles) of recent physical ill-treatment by police officers, consisting mainly of slaps, punches, kicks and truncheon blows. The CPT urges the Albanian authorities to pursue a policy of “zero tolerance” of ill-treatment and formulates several recommendations to reinforce the safeguards afforded to persons detained by the police (in particular as regards the right of access to a lawyer).
Conditions of detention in police establishments had improved at Tirana Regional Police Directorate and Korca Police Station, but remained extremely poor in all the other establishments visited (i.e. police stations at Elbasan, Pogradec, Saranda and Vlora and Tirana Police Stations Nos. 1 and 2).
No allegations of recent physical ill-treatment of prisoners by custodial staff were received in any of the prisons visited. However, at Peqin Prison, the delegation heard a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by members of the central prison administration’s special intervention unit in the context of cell searches.
Material conditions of detention were very good at Elbasan Pre-Trial Detention Facility and generally satisfactory at Korca and Peqin Prisons. In contrast, at Tirana Prison No. 313, conditions had clearly deteriorated since the 2010 visit (e.g. severe overcrowding, limited access to natural light in cells and lack of hygiene), and conditions were found to be particularly poor  at Saranda Pre-Trial Detention Facility.
The CPT acknowledges the efforts made by the management in most of the prisons visited to provide prisoners with a range of out-of-cell activities (e.g. work, education and daily association sessions). That said, no provision was made for employment or educational/vocational training for the great majority of prisoners in the establishments visited.
The overall quality of health care in prison was undermined by the fact that all the prisons visited suffered from a severe shortage of medication and that medical screening of newly-arrived prisoners was still not carried out in a systematic manner. Another major concern lies in the fact that the great majority of forensic patients who had been declared not criminally responsible continued to be held in prison establishments in breach of national legislation. Moreover, many of them were being held at Kruja Special Facility in conditions which, in the CPT’s view, were likely to amount to therapeutic abandonment. In fact, this establishment did not have a single psychiatrist for over a year, the supply of psychotropic medication was seriously affected by prolonged shortages, and hardly any rehabilitative activities were offered to patients. The CPT calls upon the Albanian authorities to take urgent measures to remedy these shortcomings and to speed up the creation of a specialised forensic psychiatric facility.
In contrast, a number of improvements were observed at Vlora Psychiatric Hospital since the last visit to the establishment in 2005. In particular, the delegation received no allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff or of violence amongst patients. Further, patients from all wards benefited from a relaxed open-door regime with free access around the hospital premises during the day, and the level of hygiene was generally adequate in all the wards. In addition, staffing levels had significantly improved. On the other hand, the CPT recommends that urgent steps be taken to improve the poor material conditions in the wards for chronic patients. The Committee also expresses concern that the 2012 Law on Mental Health, which contains a number of important safeguards for psychiatric patients, has never been implemented in the context of involuntary admissions. In fact, all the patients in respect of whom an involuntary placement procedure had been initiated had subsequently been convinced by staff to sign a voluntary hospitalisation consent form. However, in practice, most of these patients were not allowed to leave the hospital unaccompanied and were thus de facto deprived of their liberty, without respecting the legal requirement of involving a court.
In their response, the Albanian authorities provide detailed information on the measures taken to implement the CPT’s recommendations.
The main findings of the CPT are set out in the Executive Summary of the report.

The CPT’s report and the Albanian authorities’ response have been made public at the request of the Albanian Government and are available on the Committee’s website:

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