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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Finland

At the request of the Finnish authorities, 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 fifth visit to Finland, carried out from 22 September to 2 October 2014.
20/08/2015
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During the visit, the CPT’s delegation examined the situation and treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in police establishments, immigration detention, prisons and in a psychiatric hospital. Despite on-going efforts in a number of areas, the CPT was concerned by the lack of sufficient progress in the implementation of many of its long-standing recommendations, for example those regarding the practice of holding remand prisoners in police establishments and the practice of “slopping out” in prisons, on the regime for prisoners segregated in high-security and closed units, and on the legal safeguards in the context of involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation.

The report addressed some issues relating to police establishments, especially as regards material conditions, and the Committee underlined that none of the police establishments visited, including Pasila “police prison”, offered conditions suitable for holding persons in excess of the police custody period (i.e. 96 hours). In particular there was insufficient access to natural light in cells, no possibility of genuine daily outdoor exercise, no activities and no proper health-care coverage. The Committee re-iterated its long-standing recommendation regarding eliminating the practice of holding remand prisoners in police cells. Further, it underlined that delays in notification of custody remained widespread, especially for apprehended foreign nationals without residence in Finland.

The report outlined in detail various issues related to prisons, in particular the phenomenon of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation as well as the situation of prisoners held in high security and closed units. The CPT has recommended that a suitable programme of purposeful activities be provided to prisoners held in conditions of high security or segregated by court order. Overall, the Committee noted that material conditions for the mainstream prison population were good in the prisons visited. That said, the delegation observed that there were still many cells without a toilet at Helsinki and Kerava Prisons. The CPT called upon the Finnish authorities to completely eliminate the “slopping out” practice in prisons. Regarding health-care services in prisons, the CPT reiterated its assessment from the 2008 visit that there is an insufficient doctors’ presence in the prisons visited and recommended that this be increased.

Further, the report examined certain issues regarding places of detention of foreign nationals. Overall the Committee noted that treatment, living conditions and activities offered at the Metsälä Detention Unit were generally adequate. As regards the Konnunsuo detention facility, scheduled to open in late 2014, the Committee noted that the environment remained carceral and had very limited space envisaged for association and recommended that changes be made in this regard. Moreover, the Committee stressed that once the new facility had opened, the practice of holding persons detained under the Aliens Act in police establishments should be finally stopped.

The CPT’s delegation also visited Niuvanniemi Hospital, and focused on the safeguards governing involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation and treatment. The Committee found the living conditions, treatment, activities and staffing to be generally good. As regards safeguards, the CPT remained concerned by the very limited progress in addressing its long-standing recommendations aimed at improving the legislative framework, and for amendments to be made to provide for an obligatory independent expert psychiatric opinion in the context of involuntary hospitalisation and the review of such measure. The Committee was also concerned by the inefficiency of judicial reviews of involuntary hospitalisation measures. It again called on the Finnish authorities to ensure that there is a meaningful and expedient court review of the measure of involuntary hospitalisation and to ensure that psychiatric patients have an effective right to be heard in person by the judge during the involuntary hospitalisation procedure.

The CPT’s visit report, as well as the response of the Finnish authorities regarding the practice of holding remand prisoners in police cells, are available on the Committee's website at http://www.cpt.coe.int.

The full response of the Finnish authorities is due in September 2015.


Preventing torture in Europe
www.cpt.coe.int

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