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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Bulgaria

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has today published the report on its fourth periodic visit to Bulgaria in September 2006, together with the Bulgarian authorities’ responses. Both documents have been made public at the request of the Bulgarian Government.
28/02/2008
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The majority of the persons met by the CPT's delegation who were, or had recently been, detained by the police, indicated that they had been correctly treated. However, a significant number of the persons interviewed did make allegations of physical ill-treatment at the time of their apprehension and/or subsequent questioning by police officers. The Bulgarian authorities have taken steps in recent years to address the problem of ill-treatment by the police, including the adoption of new legislation and a Code of Ethics for police staff, and the stepping up of police training and supervision. At the same time, it is clear that continued determined action is needed to combat this phenomenon. The CPT has made recommendations aimed in particular at improving the screening for injuries and their reporting to the competent authorities, as well as strengthening the formal safeguards against ill-treatment.

As regards investigation detention facilities (IDFs), the CPT’s delegation noted a positive trend towards reducing the number of persons held for lengthy periods of time. However, the situation remained problematic in other respects, in particular at the IDF in Plovdiv, which was seriously overcrowded and continued to lack outdoor exercise facilities. Similar deficiencies were observed at the detention facilities in Pleven, Sliven and Slivnitsa. In response to a recommendation by the CPT that Plovdiv IDF be transferred without delay to an appropriate facility, the Bulgarian authorities have launched a procedure for the construction of a new IDF.

The CPT’s delegation did not hear any allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment of prisoners by staff at either Sofia or Sliven Prisons. However, there were indications that inter-prisoner violence was on the rise. The overcrowding prevailing in the prison system clearly did little to defuse tensions and rendered staff control more difficult. The Committee has called upon the Bulgarian authorities to redouble their efforts to combat prison overcrowding, by adopting policies designed to limit or modulate the number of persons sent to prison. Further, the CPT has recommended that the authorities strive to increase purposeful activities for prisoners, both sentenced and on remand.

The follow-up visit to Karlukovo State Psychiatric Hospital revealed that some efforts had been made to implement the recommendations made in the report on the CPT’s 2002 visit. As regards Byala State Psychiatric Hospital, material conditions displayed a number of deficiencies, and the Committee has recommended that a refurbishment be carried out without delay and steps taken to improve the food provided to patients.

In their responses, the Bulgarian authorities provide information on the measures being taken to address the concerns raised in the CPT’s report.

The CPT’s visit report and the responses of the Bulgarian Government are available in English on the CPT’s website: http://www.cpt.coe.int