Takaisin Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Latvia

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its most recent visit to Latvia, which took place from 3 to 8 December 2009, together with the response of the Latvian Government. Both documents have been made public at the request of the Latvian authorities.

The main objective of the visit was to review progress made as regards the treatment and conditions of detention of prisoners, in the light of the recommendations made by the Committee after the 2007 visit to Latvia. To that end, the CPT’s delegation re-visited Jēkabpils Prison and the units for life-sentenced prisoners at Daugavgrīvas and Jelgava Prisons.

The delegation gained the impression that the situation concerning the treatment of prisoners by staff of Jēkabpils Prison had improved as compared with the 2007 visit. Nevertheless, some allegations of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by prison officers were received. Further, the level of inter-prisoner violence at Jēkabpils Prison remained a matter of serious concern; as was the case during the 2007 visit, the delegation heard numerous accounts of severe beatings, sexual assaults, threats and extortion by fellow inmates. Moreover, the visit revealed that there had been little improvement as regards conditions of detention in the prison; the vast majority of prisoners continued to be held under poor conditions.

In relation to Daugavgrīvas Prison, the CPT welcomes the fact that life-sentenced prisoners at the medium regime level now benefit from an open-door regime for most of the day, with free access to an outdoor yard and to a common room. However, the Committee remains seriously concerned by the lack of progress in both Daugavgrīvas and Jelgava Prisons as regards the regime applied to life-sentenced prisoners who are at the lowest regime level (about 70 percent of all lifers); these prisoners continued to be locked up in their cells for up to 23 hours per day without being offered any purposeful activities. Further, the CPT has stressed once again that it can see no justification for the systematic handcuffing of almost all life-sentenced prisoners whenever they are escorted inside the prison or for keeping them apart from other prisoners.

In their response, the Latvian authorities provide information on measures taken to address the recommendations made by the Committee on the issues described above.

The CPT's report and the Latvian Government's response are available on the Committee's website: http://www.cpt.coe.int.

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