The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published the report of its ad hoc visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) of September 2021, along with the response of the authorities. Ill-treatment of detained persons remains a serious problem which requires action by the BiH authorities, the Committee says, noting a lack of effective reaction to its previous recommendations. (See versions of executive summary in English and in Bosnian; and the Bosnian versions of the report and of the response of the authorities).
During the visit, the CPT delegation examined the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by various police agencies, in particular in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), and the effectiveness of prosecutorial investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by the police. The delegation also examined the treatment of pre-trial detainees in four prison establishments under the FBiH and State Ministries of Justice.
As was the case during its previous visit in 2019, the CPT once again received numerous allegations of physical ill-treatment of detained persons by police officers, notably from the Sarajevo Cantonal Police. These consisted mainly of slaps, punches, kicks and blows with batons and the butts of service weapons inflicted by police officers on criminal suspects, either at the time of their arrest or during interrogation. The report describes several specific individual cases, supported by medical evidence.
The CPT considers that this serious problem requires a strong action by the BiH authorities, including a formal statement at the highest political level expressing a policy of zero tolerance towards police misconduct, targeted training activities on the professional interviewing of criminal suspects, and the introduction of audio-video electronic recording of all police interviews.
The Committee remains critical of the fact that, with the exception of the State Prison, in the other prisons visited (Mostar, Sarajevo and Zenica Prisons), pre-trial detainees continued to be locked in their cells for more than 22 hours a day for months on end without any purposeful activity on offer. Further, a gender-specific approach should be introduced for women on remand detention to compensate for the long periods of de facto solitary confinement to which they are subjected.
Little progress has been made in the provision of healthcare to pre-trial detainees, the report concludes. In the Committee’s view the FBiH Ministries of Justice and Health need to work together to ensure that every detainee newly admitted to prison undergoes a prompt and thorough medical examination, including screening for transmissible diseases.