In its new report on its visit to Bulgaria in October 2021, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) welcomes rare occurrences of ill-treatment by staff, reduction of prison population and certain improvements in living conditions. However, it regrets the absence of progress in applying safeguards against ill-treatment in police custody, inter-prisoner violence, severe understaffing and problems with the supply of medication (see also the executive summary in English and in Bulgarian).
In respect of persons in police custody, the great majority of the interviewed persons stated that they had been treated correctly by the police, even though the delegation again received some allegations of physical ill-treatment (mostly in Sofia). Material conditions could be considered acceptable for the detention of a maximum of 24 hours but were unsatisfactory for any longer period. The CPT very much regrets the absence of any real progress in the application of fundamental safeguards against ill-treatment – namely the right to notify one's detention to a third party, the right of access to a lawyer and to a doctor, and the right to be informed of the above-mentioned rights. These safeguards are hardly ever applicable during the initial 24-hour police custody.
As regards prisons, the Committee highlights as a positive development that since 2017 periodic visit the prison population has further reduced in Bulgaria, with the national legal norm of 4m2 per prisoner basically respected in the establishments visited (except at Plovdiv prison). Besides, hardly any credible allegations of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by staff were received (except for Plovdiv). However, inter-prisoner violence remains a problem, with inadequate penitentiary staffing only increasing its risk.
In their response (see in English and in Bulgarian), the Bulgarian authorities set out the measures taken or envisaged to implement the recommendations made by the Committee in the report. The CPT report and the response of the Bulgarian authorities have been made public at the request of the Bulgarian Government.
Council of Europe anti-torture Committee on Bulgaria: inter-prisoner violence, health issues, poor material conditions, staff shortage need to be tackled