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

At the request of the Portuguese 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 sixth periodic visit to Portugal, carried out in February 2012, together with the response of the Portuguese authorities.
In the course of the 2012 visit, the CPT’s delegation examined the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by law enforcement agencies and of the safeguards against ill-treatment in place. The report on the visit highlights several cases of alleged ill-treatment and stresses the importance of the authorities carrying out effective investigations into such allegations. Further, the report makes recommendations about the right of detained persons to have access to a lawyer (including the right to talk to a lawyer in private), to notify their detention to a third party and to be informed of their rights. In their response, the Portuguese authorities refer to the action taken to investigate cases of alleged ill-treatment by law enforcement officials and to the restructuring of the Inspectorate General of Home Affairs (IGAI) to enhance its effectiveness in investigating such cases. Information is also provided on steps to improve the safeguards in place to prevent ill-treatment of detained persons.
In relation to prisons, the report notes the steady increase in the prison population and recommends a multi-pronged approach towards eradicating overcrowding. It describes the state of dilapidation at Lisbon Central Prison, made worse by chronic overcrowding, and the particularly poor conditions in the basement areas. The CPT recommends that urgent steps be taken to improve conditions in this prison. In respect of the high security units at Linhó and Paços de Ferreira Prisons, the report recommends that inmates in these units be provided with a programme of activities and not confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day. Further, the authorities are requested to institute rigorous safeguards concerning the placement of prisoners in these units. Recommendations are also made to improve the disciplinary system, including to reduce the maximum period of solitary confinement as a punishment to 14 days, and to reinforce the health-care services in prisons, including as regards medical screening on admission, the recording of injuries and medical confidentiality.

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, notably as concerns Lisbon Central Prison. Information is also provided on the situation in the high security units and the measures being taken or under consideration to implement the CPT’s recommendations concerning the programme of activities in prison, the disciplinary system and the health-care services.

As regards the treament of forensic psychiatric patients, the report is critical of the Psychiatric Hospital of Santa Cruz do Bispo, stating that it is unsuitable for providing the necessary care and treatment to patients. It recommends urgent steps be taken to upgrade the material conditions and to improve the range of purposeful activities in order to foster a therapeutic environment. Recommendations are also made to reinforce the number of psychiatrists and nurses and to replace prison officers with nursing staff. The report also makes recommendations to strengthen the safeguards surrounding the use of means of restraint and consent to treatment for patients at this hospital and at the forensic departments of Sobral Sid and Lisbon Psychiatric Hospitals. In response, the Portuguese authorities provide information on the steps being taken to address the various CPT recommendations.

The CPT's visit report and the response of the Portuguese authorities are available on the Committee's website
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