What is the CPT?

  • The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) is a specialised independent monitoring body of the Council of Europe.
  • It consists of independent, impartial experts such as lawyers, medical doctors and specialists in prison or police matters.

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Is the CPT part of the European Union?

  • The CPT is not part of the European Union, but belongs to the 47-member state Council of Europe.
  • The European Union often refers to the CPT's observations and recommendations during its drafting of legal texts as well as during contacts with both its member states and non-member states.

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What does the CPT do?

  • The CPT visits places of detention in the member states of the Council of Europe to see how persons deprived of their liberty are treated. Examples of places of detention are: police stations, prisons, juvenile detention centres, immigration detention centres, psychiatric hospitals or social care homes.
  • It carries out approximately 18 visits per year. The duration of visits varies from a few days to two weeks, depending on the type of visit.
  • Visits may be part of the planned periodic cycle (one visit roughly every four years to each country), or unannounced (“ad hoc”) if the CPT considers it necessary to monitor a particularly serious situation.
  • CPT delegations have unlimited access to places of detention, and can move around such places without restriction.
  • CPT delegations interview persons deprived of their liberty in private, and communicate freely with anyone who can provide information.

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What does the CPT not do?

  • The CPT does not process individual complaints.
  • The CPT does not intervene in legal proceedings.
  • The CPT does not deal with allegations of ill-treatment carried out by private persons, nor where the victim is not deprived of their liberty by a public authority.
  • The CPT does not publish its visit report until the Government of the country concerned requests publication.

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How does the CPT obtain its findings?

  • The CPT obtains its findings during visits to a country (lasting from several days to two weeks), through numerous interviews with detained persons (carried out separately and in private), consultations with management and staff, direct observations by delegation members and the checking of relevant records.

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Does the CPT investigate allegations of ill-treatment?

  • The CPT is a preventive – not an investigative – body which aims at assisting countries to ensure that no person deprived of his/her liberty is subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. It cannot substitute for the competent national bodies whose task is to carry out investigations into possible cases of ill-treatment (which should inter alia include interviews of all persons concerned).

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Is every allegation of ill-treatment received by a CPT delegation included in the visit report?

  • No. For the CPT, any allegation of ill-treatment is a highly sensitive matter. Visiting delegations, as well as the Committee as a whole, always consider very carefully whether an allegation of ill-treatment can be considered credible, and whether it should be taken into account in the visit report as a basis for specific recommendations to prevent future ill-treatment. To this end, CPT delegations always seek to substantiate allegations of ill-treatment with further evidence, for instance, a physical examination of the person concerned by a medical member of the delegation, documentation of reported incidents in relevant records (or medical files) or interviewing potential witnesses.
  • Allegations of ill-treatment received by a delegation, even when substantiated with strong evidence, are reported to the authorities as allegations, not as established facts.
  • The CPT may also raise individual cases with the authorities (with the consent of the person concerned) and request that an investigation into allegations of ill-treatment be carried out by the competent investigative body.

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How can staff and the authorities react to negative findings of CPT delegations (and allegations of ill-treatment in particular)?

  • At the end of a visit to an establishment, the CPT’s delegation usually provides feedback on its main findings, including allegations of ill-treatment, to the management and staff (without revealing the sources, unless the persons concerned expressly agree to it). In this regard, it is imperative that the feedback always be given in such a manner as to protect the alleged victims from potential reprisals. Any reactions or views expressed by management or staff in this context may be taken into account in the visit report.
  • At the end of every country visit, the CPT’s delegation meets the competent Ministers and/or other senior Government officials in order to present to them its preliminary observations (including allegations of ill-treatment). Shortly after the visit, these observations are transmitted in writing to the national authorities. Any information and comments provided by the authorities in response will also be taken into account when the CPT draws up the visit report.
  • Upon receipt of the CPT’s report, the national authorities are requested to submit, within a specified period (usually between three and six months), a detailed response regarding the measures taken to implement the recommendations made by the CPT. This response provides another opportunity for the relevant authorities to react to the CPT’s findings.

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How can the CPT interact with the media when a visit report is published?

  • According to the European Convention establishing the CPT, all facts found during a visit must be kept strictly confidential between the CPT and the authorities of the country visited. The Government of the country concerned may request the publication of the CPT’s report and its response. But even after such publication, the CPT is obliged to keep any further details confidential.
  • In the context of the publication of a report, the CPT’s only possible interaction with the media is the presentation of the contents of the report itself and, if necessary, the provision of general information on its working methods. However, apart from that, the Committee can only discuss its findings and conclusions directly with the national authorities as part of a confidential dialogue. Therefore, it cannot reveal any additional or background information to the public and cannot reply to media queries in this regard.

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What happens after a CPT visit?

  • After each visit, the CPT sends a detailed report to the state concerned. This report includes the CPT’s findings, as well as its recommendations, comments and requests for information.
  • The CPT requests from the state a detailed response to the issues raised in its report.
  • In order to ensure the implementation of its recommendations, the CPT engages in a confidential dialogue with the state concerned which may take the form of an exchange of letters or high-level talks/meetings.

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Can the CPT help individuals?

  • Unlike the European Court of Human Rights, the CPT is not empowered to process individual complaints.
  • However, information from individuals about allegations of ill-treatment may be of value to the Committee in the context of a visit to the country concerned. Cases should be reported in writing, giving as many details as possible, and will be treated on a confidential basis.
  • When notifying the CPT of an allegation of ill-treatment, it should be borne in mind that the alleged act:
    • must have occurred in a place of detention, or while being temporarily deprived of one’s liberty;
    • must have occurred on the territory of one of the member states of the Council of Europe, regardless of the nationality of the victim.

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Does the CPT deal with all forms of ill-treatment?

  • No. The alleged ill-treatment must have been inflicted on a person deprived of their liberty by a public authority, in places such as police stations, prisons, juvenile detention centres, immigration detention centres, psychiatric hospitals or social care homes.
  • The CPT does not deal with cases of domestic violence. The Council of Europe monitoring body on action against violence against women is GREVIO.

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Does the CPT deal with allegations of ill-treatment committed outside Europe?

  • The CPT’s mandate only covers the territories of those countries which have ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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What if the victim of an allegation of ill-treatment is not a citizen of a member state of the Council of Europe?

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How can I find out when the CPT will visit my country?

  • Periodic visits are announced to the public a year in advance, without giving specific dates.
  • Ad hoc visits are not announced to the public.
  • The authorities of the state concerned are notified of the exact date a few days/weeks before the visit is due to commence.
  • The public is informed of the exact dates of the visit by a news flash published on the CPT’s website once the visit has been carried out.

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Where can I find CPT visit reports?

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When is the CPT report sent to the authorities?

  • Reports of periodic visits: usually between three and six months after the visit.
  • Reports of ad hoc visits: usually between two and four months after the visit.

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When does the CPT receive the Government response?

  • Responses to periodic visit reports: usually within six months of the authorities receiving the report.
  • Responses to ad hoc visit reports: usually within three months of the authorities receiving the report.

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How long does it usually take before a CPT report is published?

  • There is no fixed time limit for requesting publication of a report. It is entirely up to the state concerned.
    • Some states have authorised the automatic publication of all reports.
    • Some states have requested publication upon receipt of the report.
    • Some states have requested publication of the CPT's report together with their response.
    • Some states have never requested publication of certain CPT reports.
  • There is no obligation for the state to publish the report.

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What is an "automatic publication procedure"?

  • An "automatic publication procedure" is set in place when a state makes a general request to publish all future visit reports concerning that state. (The Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe both encourage states which have not done so to adopt this procedure).
  • To date, the authorities of the following countries have adopted an automatic publication procedure: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine.

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Why do certain reports/responses not exist in English?

  • CPT reports are drafted for the attention of governments. They are therefore written in whichever official language of the Council of Europe they prefer (either English or French).
  • If the CPT receives a local language version of the response, it is also published in that language.

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