nugara Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Poland

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 fourth periodic visit to Poland in November/December 2009, together with the response of the Polish authorities. These documents have been made public at the request of the Polish authorities.
During the visit, the CPT's delegation received a number of allegations of excessive use of force by the police at the time of apprehension, as well as of physical ill-treatment and verbal abuse, including of juveniles, during questioning. The CPT has recommended that police officers be reminded that all forms of ill-treatment are unacceptable and will be the subject of severe sanctions. Particular attention was paid to the manner in which investigations are carried out into cases involving allegations of ill-treatment, and the report concludes that the effectiveness of such investigations needs to be improved. In their response, the Polish authorities refer to instructions given to senior police officers in the regional command offices. They also mention training on practical aspects of the protection of human rights.

As regards foreign nationals held under aliens legislation, the delegation received no allegations of physical ill-treatment of detainees by custodial staff in any of the establishments visited. Material conditions of detention were on the whole satisfactory. As regards regime activities, the situation varied considerably from one establishment to another. The regime was favourable at Biała Podlaska Guarded Centre, but was unacceptable at the Biała Podlaska deportation arrest centre, where detainees remained locked up in their cells for 23 hours a day without being offered any activities apart from outdoor exercise.

Overcrowding remained a problem in Polish prisons. The CPT has taken note of the refurbishment and expansion projects concerning various prisons, as well as the entry into force of legislation introducing a system of electronic surveillance. The CPT has encouraged the Polish authorities to pursue their efforts to combat prison overcrowding. The Committee has also reiterated its recommendation that the authorities review as soon as possible the norms fixed by legislation for living space per prisoner, so as to ensure at least 4 m² per inmate in multi-occupancy cells in all penitentiary establishments.

Hardly any allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners by staff were received. However, with the notable exception of Rawicz Prison, the regime provided to inmates was unsatisfactory in the prisons visited. As regards in particular remand prisoners, the almost total lack of activities aggravated the experience of imprisonment and rendered it more punitive than the regime for sentenced persons. Taken together with limited living space, poor material conditions and restrictions on contact with the outside world and association, this produced a regime which was oppressive and stultifying. In their response, the Polish authorities undertake to involve more inmates in organised activities.

At the Social Care Home for Adults with Chronic Mental Illnesses in Bytom, the delegation received no allegations of ill-treatment of residents by staff. The entire establishment was being refurbished at the time of the visit, and material conditions in the parts already renovated were very good. The delegation also gained a favourable impression of the activities being organised for residents. However, the CPT has recommended that steps be taken to improve the legal safeguards surrounding the placement, and review of placement, of people in specialised institutions.

The CPT's report and the response of the Polish authorities  are available in English (and in Polish for the response) on the Committee's website:

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