Späť Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on France and response of the French Government

The Council of Europe's Committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CPT) has today published the report on its visit to France from 28 November to 10 December 2010, together with the French Government's response. These documents have been made public with the authorisation of the French authorities.

In its visit report, the CPT notes a number of positive developments. Legal reforms had been adopted or initiated in several fields of considerable interest to the Committee (e.g. police custody, prison matters and psychiatric care). However, some of the CPT’s long-standing concerns had only been partly met by the action taken by the French authorities.

During the 2010 visit, the CPT's delegation heard some allegations of excessive use of force by police officers at the time of apprehension and of blows inflicted shortly after apprehension. In its report, the Committee recommends that a message of “zero tolerance of ill-treatment” be delivered regularly to officers of the National Police Service and that legal safeguards against ill-treatment be further reinforced. It also makes a number of recommendations to improve conditions of detention in police and gendarmerie cells as well as in administrative holding centres for foreign nationals. In their response, the French authorities provide information on measures taken before and after the visit to reduce the risk of police ill-treatment. They also inform the Committee of steps taken or envisaged to improve conditions of detention in police cells and in administrative holding centres. 

As regards prison-related matters, the CPT’s delegation received no allegations of deliberate ill-treatment of inmates by prison staff in Le Havre and Poissy Prisons. Nevertheless, at Le Havre, some cases of excessive use of force by staff when dealing with incidents were reported to the delegation; the delegation also noted that there was an appreciable risk of inter-prisoner violence in that establishment. Further, the conditions under which prisoners are transferred to local health-care establishments and receive medical treatment continue to be of concern to the Committee. In response, the French Government refers to training for junior prison staff at Le Havre Prison on the appropriate use of force. It also informs the Committee of the work of Health-Justice co-ordination bodies in relation to transfers of prisoners to local health-care facilities. As regards prison overcrowding, another issue raised by the CPT in the report, the French authorities provide details on action taken to develop non-custodial measures and plans to increase the overall capacity of the prison system.  

In the field of psychiatry, patients generally spoke positively about the manner in which they were treated by hospital staff. Nevertheless, the delegation did receive a few allegations of ill-treatment of patients by certain members of the nursing staff of Paul Guiraud hospital complex and the Val de Lys-Artois public mental health establishment. The CPT also stresses that interventions by custodial staff in the care zone of the specially adapted psychiatric hospital unit for prisoners (UHSA) should be exceptional and proportionate. Further, the Commitee recommends urgent action in respect of persons awaiting placement in units for difficult patients and prisoners suffering from psychiatric disorders requiring hospital care; it emerged that such patients were generally kept for prolonged periods, often under restraint, in seclusion rooms in general psychiatry departments. The Government response refers to action taken in order to prevent ill-treatment and develop good treatment practices in the establishments visited and highlights the reduction in the number of custodial staff interventions in the care zone of the UHSA after the CPT’s visit. The French Government also informs the Committee of the envisaged setting-up of psychiatric intensive care units at Paul Guiraud hospital complex and of the planned increase of the number of places available in units for difficult patients in order to better meet the needs of the patients concerned. The French authorities indicate that, pending the construction of further psychiatric hospital units for prisoners, a document is under preparation with a view to preventing abusive resort to isolation and to restraint vis-à-vis prisoners hospitalised in general psychiatry departments and that the necessary adjustments to the current organisation of care are under consideration.

The CPT’s visit report and the response of the French authorities are available in French on the Committee's Website: http://www.cpt.coe.int

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