Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its visit to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in October 2014 together with the response of the national authorities.
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The report examines the progress made since the Committee’s previous visits in 2010 and 2011, notably as concerns the situation in prisons and police stations. A further area of interest was the treatment of social care home residents and of patients in psychiatric hospitals. In addition, the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Skopje where foreign nationals are detained under aliens’ legislation was visited for the first time.
At the Reception Centre for Foreigners of Gazi Baba in Skopje, numerous consistent allegations of ill-treatment of detainees by custodial staff were received, and there were frequent instances of inter-detainee violence. The Reception Centre was seriously overcrowded and the conditions in which the men, women and children (including 13 unaccompanied minors) were held could be described as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment.
In their response the national authorities recognized that the Reception Centre was not appropriate for detention purposes and referred to their efforts to find a more suitable location for holding foreigners.  They also state that women and children are now held in an open centre.
As regards the prison system, the CPT remains deeply concerned. At Idrizovo Prison (which holds two –thirds of the country’s prison population), a great number of allegations of deliberate ill-treatment of inmates by custodial staff were received and inter-prisoner violence was a serious problem in certain units. Insufficient staffing levels, notably at Idrizovo Prison, and a lack of training exacerbate the problems of violence. Moreover, a professional career path for managers within the prison system still does not exist. The conditions of detention in certain wings of the Idrizovo and Skopje Remand Prisons could be described as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment (poor state of repair and hygiene, infested with vermin and overcrowded). Further, remand prisoners are still offered no activities and spend 22 hours or more per day confined to their cells.
In their response, the national authorities refer to the adoption of a strategic document on penitentiary reform by the government and to their continued efforts invested in the amelioration of the prison estate, training and recruitment of staff.
The situation of juveniles held at the “Tetovo” Educational Correctional Institution (located in the town of Veles) was also totally unacceptable. Many allegations of physical ill-treatment of juveniles by staff were received and, moreover, no action was taken when episodes indicative of ill-treatment and inter-prisoner violence (including a case of rape) were brought to the attention of the management. Further, there was no programme of structured activities and material conditions had deteriorated since the CPT’s 2011 visit. Recommendations are made to address these deficiencies as well as to improve the staffing situation, reform the disciplinary sanction of solitary confinement and increase juveniles’ contact with the outside world. In sum, the CPT highlights the authorities’neglect of the welfare of juvenile held in this establishment and the urgent need to relocate the Institution.
The national authorities in their response state that the Veles facility has been closed down and the juveniles transferred to a dedicated wing of Ohrid Prison. Information is also provided on the implementation of other CPT recommendations.
The report notes an improvement in the way in which persons are treated by the police but some credible allegations were received of deliberate physical ill-treatment by police officers, and the authorities should pursue their efforts to eradicate ill-treatment. Prosecutors and judges also need to act on claims of ill-treatment by the police.
The overall atmosphere at Demir Hisar Psychiatric Hospital had improved since the CPT’s visit in 2010. However, several allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff as well as of inter-patient violence were received on certain wards of Skopje Psychiatric Hospital.  The living conditions at Demir Hisar and Skopje Psychiatric Hospitals remained, with some exceptions, poor and were exacerbated by the austere and depersonalised environment and the overcrowding in the dormitories. The report also includes recommendations on the application of means of restraint to patients and the necessity to reinforce the legal safeguards surrounding the placement, review and discharge of involuntary hospitalisation measures.
At Demir Kapija Special Institution for mentally disabled persons, the report notes that positive relations existed between staff and residents but that inter-resident violence was a problem. Living conditions varied across the establishment ranging from satisfactory in the A wards to extremely poor in the C wards, where premises were found to be unhygienic and insalubrious and where a number of residents did not have their own bed. There is also a need, inter alia, to reinforce the legal safeguards surrounding their legal capacity and guardianship issues.  
In their response, the national authorities provide inter alia information on the arrangements put in place in relation to the timely provision of access to a lawyer to persons in police detention. Information is also provided on the material ameliorations at Demir Hisar Psychiatric Hospital as well as the complete refurbishment of the C wards at Demir Kapija Special Institution.  
The main findings of the CPT are set out in the Executive Summary of the report.
The CPT’s report and the national authorities’ response have been made public at the request of the government of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and are available on the Committee’s website: