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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Croatia

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 3rd periodic visit to Croatia, in 2007, together with the authorities’ response. These documents have been made public at the request of the Croatian Government.
09/10/2008
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The report reviews the situation of persons detained by the police, including immigration detainees. The information gathered during the visit indicated that ill-treatment by the police remained a problem in Croatia. The CPT made a series of recommendations to address this problem, including that a clear message of “zero tolerance” of ill-treatment be delivered, from the highest level and through ongoing training activities, to all police officers. The CPT also noted with concern that little progress had been made as regards notification of custody, access to a lawyer, and access to a doctor; it called upon the Croatian authorities to take effective steps to ensure compliance with these fundamental safeguards against the ill-treatment of people detained by the police.

The CPT welcomed the efforts made to improve material conditions in police establishments in Zagreb, in sharp contrast with the situation observed in police cells outside the capital. It recommended the Croatian authorities to redouble their efforts to improve conditions of detention in police cells throughout the country.

As regards prisons, the delegation received no allegations of ill-treatment of inmates by staff at Požega Re-education Institution. However, some allegations of physical ill-treatment and verbal abuse were received at Lepoglava, Osijek and Rijeka Prisons. Further, the delegation had misgivings about the manner in which investigations of prisoners' complaints were carried out, after gathering allegations of psychological pressure by prison officers against prisoners who had complained. The CPT recommended the authorities to deliver to prison staff the firm message that both physical ill-treatment and verbal abuse of prisoners, as well as any kind of threats or intimidating action against a prisoner who has made a complaint, will not be tolerated and will be subject to severe sanctions.

Prison overcrowding had worsened since the 2003 visit, with an increase of the prison population by some 40%. The CPT recommended the Croatian authorities to redouble their efforts to combat prison overcrowding, in particular by adopting policies designed to limit or modulate the number of people sent to prison. The CPT's delegation noted the efforts to offer activities to sentenced prisoners in the establishments visited, including prisoners serving very long sentences. By contrast, the regime of remand prisoners at Osijek and Rijeka Prisons remained very poor, most inmates on remand being confined to their cells for some 22 hours a day.

No allegations of ill-treatment were received at Vrapče Psychiatric Hospital and the Pula Social Care Home for Adults with Psychiatric Disorders. At both establishments, the CPT was impressed by the caring attitude displayed by staff towards patients and residents. However, at Vrapče Psychiatric Hospital, little or no action had been taken to implement the recommendations made after the Committee’s 2003 visit; there is in particular an urgent need to proceed with the construction of the new forensic psychiatric unit.

As regards treatment at Pula Social Care Home, the situation was globally satisfactory. That said, the CPT recommended that programmes of rehabilitative activities as well as resocialisation programmes be developed, which will require more qualified staff.

In their response, the Croatian authorities provide information on the measures being taken to address the issues raised in the CPT’s report.

The CPT's visit report and the response of the Croatian authorities are available on the Committee's website http://www.cpt.coe.int