Back Germany: Uneven progress in treatment of detained persons and detention conditions, says anti-torture committee

In the report on its most recent visit to Germany, published today, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) praises progress made to improve the treatment of detained persons and detention conditions, but also found striking contrasts between establishments visited in different Federal States (Länder).
Germany: Uneven progress in treatment of detained persons and detention conditions, says anti-torture committee

During the visit, carried out in late 2015, the CPT’s delegation heard no allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment of detained persons by police officers whilst in police custody. However, some allegations were received – in particular from foreign nationals and persons suffering from a mental disorder – about excessive use of force by police officers at the time of apprehension (such as punches or kicks after the person concerned had been brought under control or unduly tight handcuffing).

The CPT gained a positive impression regarding fundamental safeguards against ill- treatment, especially with regard to the rights of notification of custody and access to a doctor. But it calls on the German authorities to ensure that all detained persons benefit from access to a lawyer throughout their police custody, including during any police questioning.

The CPT is pleased that a downward trend regarding the use of mechanical restraint (Fixierung) in prisons has continued. In most prisons visited, hardly any prisoner had been subjected to the practice in recent years, and the CPT encourages the relevant authorities of all Länder to abandon the resort to Fixierung in prisons.

However, the CPT’s delegation observed differences among establishments regarding the use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure. While used only rarely in recent years at some prisons, it was imposed more frequently in another prison, and for up to the legal maximum period of four weeks, which the Committee finds excessive. The CPT also recommends that solitary confinement be abolished for juveniles, in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).

The delegation observed a stark contrast between prisons regarding contact with the outside world. In several prisons, prisoners had access to the telephone inside their cells, but in the prison visited in Bavaria, both remand and sentenced prisoners were not allowed to make any telephone calls. The CPT finds this unacceptable and incompatible with the European Prison Rules.

Living conditions and psychiatric treatment in psychiatric establishments were generally of a high standard, but in one forensic clinic visited, some patients who had committed sexual offences and who had been or were receiving anti-androgen treatment (so-called “chemical castration”) claimed that a treating doctor put them under pressure to accept the treatment, which – the CPT recalls – should be given on a purely voluntary basis.

In previous reports, the CPT expressed objections to surgical castration as a means of treatment of sex offenders, since it was a mutilating, irreversible intervention. In the present report, the Committee welcomes the fact that, according to official data, not one single surgical castration had been carried out on sex offenders during the period 2013 to 2015, and it encourages all federal and Länder authorities to put a definitive end to surgical castration for treatment of sex offenders.

The main findings of the CPT are set out in the Executive Summary of the report.

In their response, the German authorities provide information on the measures taken or envisaged to implement the recommendations made by the CPT.

The CPT’s report and the response of the German authorities have been made public at the request of the German Government.

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