Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes two reports on Bulgaria

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) today published two reports on its visits to Bulgaria in 2002 and 2003, together with the responses of the Bulgarian Government. These documents have been made public with the agreement of the Bulgarian authorities.
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The first report relates to the third periodic visit to Bulgaria carried out in April 2002. During that visit, a considerable number of persons interviewed by the CPT alleged that they had been ill-treated by the police. A considerable number of allegations were received in respect of the 3rd District Police Directorate in Sofia. In response to a request by the Committee, the Bulgarian authorities carried out an inquiry into the methods used during the interrogation of criminal suspects at that establishment. The inquiry brought to light a number of violations and deficiencies, which were the subject of recommendations by the inspecting commission and led to the imposition of disciplinary sanctions. 

During the 2002 visit, some improvements were noted in the country's investigation detention facilities, severely criticised by the CPT in previous visit reports. However, a great deal remained to be done: most detainees continued to spend months on end locked up in overcrowded cells 24 hours a day. In their response, the Bulgarian authorities highlight practical changes made, such as the closing down of two of the detention facilities visited by the Committee and the implementation of a refurbishment and construction programme. 

Concerning prisons, the CPT has drawn attention to the problem of overcrowding and to the shortage of work and other activities for inmates. Further, it has called for immediate steps to improve conditions of detention of prisoners with life sentences at Pleven Prison. In their response, the authorities make reference to various measures taken to address the Committee's concerns. 

The report on the 2002 visit also points to major deficiencies in the material conditions and in particular the provision of food to patients at Karlukovo Psychiatric Hospital. In response to the CPT's recommendations, the Bulgarian authorities have increased the hospital's budget for food and other basic necessities and have launched a refurbishment programme.

The second report concerns an ad hoc visit carried out in December 2003, which focused on the situation of persons placed by the public authorities in homes for adults with mental disorders and for children with mental retardation. The Home in the village of Razdol (first visited by the CPT in 2002) continued to lack the material environment and human resources necessary to provide appropriate care to residents. As to the Home in Pastra, the situation witnessed was even worse. In contrast, the Committee received a positive overall impression of the Home for children and juveniles with mental retardation in Vidrare. More generally, the CPT's report stresses the need for appropriate safeguards to surround placement in specialised care institutions. 

In their response, the Bulgarian authorities indicate that the homes in Razdol and Pastra will be transferred to a new location. Other measures referred to in the response include the elaboration of a plan for reforms at special care institutions, the construction of protected houses, and the consideration of legislative changes which would ensure better observance of the rights of people with mental disabilities. 

The two CPT visit reports and the responses of the Bulgarian authorities are available on the Committee's website: