Voltar Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Croatia

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 periodic visit to Croatia which took place in September 2012 together with the Croatian Government’s response.

In the course of the 2012 visit, the CPT received only a few allegations of physical ill-treatment and verbal harassment by law enforcement officials either at the time of apprehension or during questioning at police stations. The report examines the application of the procedural guarantees contained in the 2009 Code of Criminal Procedure and recommendations are made aimed at strengthening the formal safeguards (access to a lawyer, access to a doctor) against ill-treatment of detained persons. In their response, the Croatian authorities provide additional information on the application of these legal safeguards and commit themselves to addressing the material deficiencies in the temporary detention cells that were raised in the CPT’s report. 

As regards prisons, the great majority of inmates met by the CPT’s delegation indicated that they had been treated in a correct manner by custodial staff. However, some allegations of physical ill-treatment of inmates by prison officers were received in each of the prisons visited, including in the Hospital for Persons deprived of their Liberty in Zagreb. The allegations consisted primarily of slaps and punches to various parts of the body and often related to the time when inmates were being placed in padded cells (known also as “rubber rooms”) as a temporary security measure. The deleterious effects of overcrowding affected the living conditions in the prisons visited, notably at Zagreb County Prison which was 225% over its 400 bed capacity. The report puts forward several recommendations to reduce overcrowding, improve material conditions and expand the programme of activities on offer to inmates. Recommendations are also put forward to increase health care staffing levels and to improve medical screening on admission and psychiatric care of prisoners. Further, the CPT is critical of the procedures in place for the placement of inmates in padded cells, as well as the safeguards surrounding disciplinary proceedings and the confidentiality of prisoners’ complaints. In their response, the Croatian authorities provide information on the measures taken to improve material conditions in the prisons visited and on the steps taken to ensure a strict application of the existing rules in relation to security measures such as the placement of inmates in padded cells.

At the psychiatric hospital and two social care homes visited, the report states that staff-patient/resident relations were positive and the atmosphere in the institutions was relaxed. However, the living conditions in all three institutions were cramped, with beds in many dormitories touching one another and residents having no personal lockable cupboards. Further, the report is critical of the use of means of restraint at Rab Psychiatric Hospital and at the Stančić Centre for Rehabilitation. In this latter institution, the CPT’s delegation observed a clear overuse of mechanical restraint, with approximately 40 residents, including children, fixed to beds and furniture for hours on end during the day and systematically at night without continuous monitoring. The isolation rooms were also totally unsuitable. The CPT recommends the adoption of a multifaceted strategy to substantially reduce or eradicate the use of means of restraint and isolation at the Stančić Centre for Rehabilitation. In their response, the Croatian authorities provide information on the plans for the de-institutionalization and transformation of the social welfare institutions visited and stated that a comprehensive policy on the use of means of restraint at Stančić Centre for Rehabilitation  would be developed in the course of 2014.

The visit report and government response have been made public at the request of the Croatian authorities and are available on the CPT’s website: www.cpt.coe.int. 

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