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Council of Europe anti-torture committee warns states against intimidation and reprisals towards individuals who denounce ill-treatment

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has called on the 47 Council of Europe states to protect detained persons against intimidation and reprisals after having been interviewed by the Committee on their detention conditions and possible ill-treatment by staff. The CPT has also urged states to protect public officials who act as whistle-blowers.
21/01/2015
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In its annual report published today, the CPT recalls that it has identified a number of cases in which persons it had interviewed have apparently been intimidated or subjected to various forms of reprisals by or at the instigation of public officials. Most common forms of reprisal are undue restrictions on basic entitlements, solitary confinement for fabricated disciplinary or security reasons, placement in worse conditions of detention, withdrawal of support for early release, assault and other kinds of ill-treatment.

The CPT has reported such cases in various countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Spain, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Ukraine.

“Intimidation or retaliation against persons the CPT has interviewed may not only violate their human rights but also strikes a blow at the preventive mechanism established by the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture. I urge national authorities to respect their obligation to prevent, investigate and punish such actions,” said Lətif Hüseynov, the CPT President.

The CPT concludes that states should consider further preventive measures, for example, introducing specific offences in law to penalise threats and reprisals, or prohibiting prison staff from recording the names of the persons interviewed. The Committee advocates the transfer of potential victims to other establishments, or reassigning members of staff to other duties. In addition, it calls on states to establish an appropriate complaints procedure and to carry out effective investigations into every potential case of intimidation or reprisal against a detained person.

The report also contains an update of the standards which the CPT uses when assessing the situation of juveniles (i.e. persons under the age of 18) who are deprived of their liberty under criminal legislation. In this regard, the CPT stresses the following points:

Additional safeguards should apply to juveniles held in police custody. In particular, there should be a formal obligation to notify a relative or another adult trusted by the juvenile about his/her detention. Further, a detained juvenile should never be subjected to police questioning without the presence of a lawyer and, in principle, a trusted adult person.

Juveniles should, as a rule, not be detained in law enforcement establishments for more than 24 hours, and it would be highly desirable for juveniles to be held in units separate from those for adults.

In detention centres, juveniles should normally be accommodated in individual bedrooms and be allowed to wear their own clothing. Large dormitories should be phased out.

Centres for juveniles should have a comprehensive strategy for managing drug abuse and the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

Staff dealing with juveniles should not carry batons, incapacitating sprays or other means of restraint, and it is to be encouraged that custodial staff do not wear uniforms.

Solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure should only be imposed as a last resort, for very short periods and under no circumstances for more than three days.

All juveniles should have frequent access to a telephone, and it is highly welcome if they are allowed to use free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.

The CPT´s annual report also contains information on the 25 visits carried out by the Committee between August 2013 and December 2014.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) organises visits to places of detention in the 47 Council of Europe member states in order to assess how persons deprived of their liberty are treated. These places include prisons, juvenile detention centres, police stations, holding centres for immigration detainees, psychiatric hospitals and social care homes. After each visit, the CPT prepares a report containing its findings and recommendations. The CPT has carried out visits since 1990 and is commemorating its 25th anniversary in 2015. More information: www.cpt.coe.int


Preventing torture in Europe
www.cpt.coe.int

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