Back Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Bosnia and Herzegovina

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 December 2012 ad hoc visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with the authorities’ response. The main objective of the visit was to examine the steps taken since the April 2011 visit to combat ill-treatment by the police.
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The CPT’s delegation again received a considerable number of credible allegations of severe physical ill-treatment by the police in the Republika Srpska. The alleged ill-treatment mostly took the form of slaps, punches and kicks as well as blows with hard objects (such as baseball bats) to various parts of the body. Detailed allegations were also received of handcuffing in stress positions, the placing of plastic bags over the heads of suspects, the infliction of electric shocks and mock executions. The majority of the allegations concerned the time when suspects were being questioned by crime inspectors in their offices, in particular at Banja Luka Central Police Station.
The CPT recommends that an independent professional assessment be carried out into the working methods used by crime inspectors at Banja Luka Central Police Station when detaining and interviewing suspects. Further, the report calls upon the authorities to improve the recruitment process and educational training of police officers, to take action to promote a culture where ill-treatment is regarded as unprofessional and to create an environment which encourages acts of ill-treatment to be reported.
The report is also critical of the lack of follow-up action when persons complain of ill-treatment by the police. The CPT makes several recommendations aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment. Recommendations are also made to strengthen, in practice, the formal safeguards surrounding deprivation of liberty, such as access to a lawyer and access to a doctor.
The absence of any holding cell at Banja Luka Central Police Station meant that detained persons were often handcuffed to radiators or items of furniture for prolonged periods. The report recommends that such a situation should be ended and proper holding cells established. Further, deficiencies found in other police stations should be remedied.
As regards the pre-trial departments in the prisons visited, the CPT remains critical of the disproportionate restrictions placed on remand prisoners who are confined to their cells for 22 hours a day for months on end. It also considers that remand prisoners should be offered at least one hour a week of visits and that such visits should, as a rule, take place under reasonably open conditions. Recommendations are also made inter alia to improve the health-care services in prison and to put in place systematic procedures for the recording and reporting of injuries.
In their response, the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina provide information on certain investigations into allegations of ill-treatment and on the action taken to ensure the police abide by the relevant rules governing the treatment of detained persons. Particular reference is made to a letter by the President of the Supreme Court of the Republika Srpska reminding all judges of their obligations whenever there are indications of ill-treatment by the police and to a general mandatory instruction by the Chief Prosecutor concerning the carrying out of investigations. Information is also provided on improvements to police detention facilities. As regards prisons, the authorities state that steps are being taken to address the deficiencies observed in the health-care services.

The visit report and the response have been made public at the request of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and are available on the CPT’s website: