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

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 ad hoc visit to Portugal, carried out in May 2013, together with the response of the Portuguese authorities.
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In the 15 months since the February 2012 periodic visit to Portugal, overcrowding within the prison system had increased further.  Lisbon Central Prison, the main focus of the visit, continued to be affected by chronic overcrowding of almost 150% and very poor material conditions. Damp cells, crumbling plaster, broken windows, a lack of artificial lighting, decrepit mattresses were found in most of the basement areas of the prison. The CPT comments that such conditions could be considered as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. The report also refers to a number of credible allegations of ill-treatment of inmates by prison officers and the CPT reiterates the importance of effective investigations into such allegations. Recommendations are made to improve the recording of physical injuries observed upon admission to the establishment or following a violent incident inside the prison and to increase staffing levels. Further, as regards the small numbers of juveniles held at Lisbon central Prison, the CPT found that their safety was at risk and recommended that they be transferred to another establishment offering both an appropriate environment and a tailor-made regime. The report also recommends several measures to improve the disciplinary process and reduce  resort to prolonged provisional isolation.

As regards Monsanto High Security Prison, where prisoners were confined alone in their cells for some 21 hours a day, recommendations are made to develop the range of purposeful activities in place for each inmate and to promote better contacts between staff and prisoners. Further, the authorities are again requested to institute rigorous safeguards concerning the placement of prisoners, and any extension thereof, in the high-security estate.

The Portuguese authorities are invited to phase out the carrying of truncheons by custodial staff in detention areas at both Lisbon Central and Monsanto Prisons.

 In their response, the Portuguese authorities refer to the steps being taken to expand the application of alternative measures to imprisonment and to the ongoing investment to improve prison conditions at Lisbon Central Prison. Information is also provided on the measures being taken or under consideration to implement the CPT’s recommendations concerning the programme of activities in prison, staffing issues, the disciplinary system and the health-care services.

In the course of the May 2013 visit, the CPT’s delegation also examined in detail the investigation into a case of alleged ill-treatment by a National Republican Guard (GNR) officer. The report highlights a series of deficiencies in the investigation of this case and raises concerns as to the flow of information between the GNR, the Inspectorate General of Home Affairs (IGAI) and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. In their extensive response, the Portuguese authorities concur with the CPT’s findings concerning the investigation into this specific case and refer to the steps being taken to ensure that the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the relevant inspectorates are informed directly of any allegation of ill-treatment in the future.

The visit report and government response have been made public at the request of the Portuguese authorities and are available on the CPT’s website (