Geri Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 2011 together with the response of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The CPT’s delegation received a considerable number of credible allegations of severe physical ill-treatment by the police. The alleged ill-treatment mostly concerned kicks and punches to the body and blows with batons; however, detailed allegations were also received of handcuffing in stress positions, the placing of plastic bags over the heads of suspects and the infliction of electric shocks. The majority of the allegations concerned the time when suspects were being questioned by crime inspectors in their offices, and the information gathered indicates that the infliction of ill-treatment is a frequent practice at Banja Luka Central Police Station. The CPT emphasises in its report that all means should be explored to ensure that a message of zero tolerance of ill-treatment reaches law enforcement officials at all levels. It recommends that an independent inquiry be carried out into the methods used by crime inspectors at Banja Luka Central Police Station.  

In the authorities’ response, information is given on steps taken to examine allegations of ill-treatment. Notably, reference is made to ongoing criminal proceedings in relation to two cases raised in the report and to the fact that the Professional Standards Unit of the Ministry of Interior of Republika Srpska has been tasked to investigate whether disciplinary or criminal proceedings need to be instituted against any officers.  

Hardly any allegations of ill-treatment of inmates by staff were received in the prisons visited, with the exception of Banja Luka Prison. The delegation also found that significant steps had been taken to reduce inter-prisoner violence, particularly at Zenica Prison. In their response, the authorities state that internal investigations had shown that all use of means applied by prison officers at Banja Luka Prison was proportionate and in accordance with the law.

The situation of prisoners placed in high security units is commented on in the report, notably as regards the lack of activities and the inadequate safeguards surrounding their placement. The CPT is also critical of the impoverished regime of remand prisoners, who are confined to their cells for 22 hours a day for months on end. The authorities provide information on the range of activities now provided to inmates, in particular in the high security units, while pointing out the difficulties in permitting remand prisoners more out-of-cell time.  

The CPT’s delegation found that overcrowding in Sokolac Psychiatric Clinic, the psychiatric annexe in Zenica and Drin Social Care Home continued to impact negatively on living conditions. The report also highlights ongoing concerns about the safeguards surrounding placement in these institutions as well as insufficient staffing levels. In their response, the authorities describe action being taken to address these issues, including steps towards the opening of a state-wide forensic psychiatric institution.

Conditions in the Lukavica Immigration Detention Centre were found to be generally satisfactory, although steps need to be taken to provide more purposeful activities to detainees held for prolonged periods. In their response, the authorities comment that this matter is being addressed.

The CPT’s visit report and the response, which have been published at the request of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are available on the Committee's website at:

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