Geri Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on the Netherlands

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 most recent visit to the Netherlands, carried out in October 2011.

The visit report notes that the CPT’s delegation received no allegations of physical ill-treatment of persons detained by the police, prisoners or patients in mental health institutions. On the contrary, the relations between persons deprived of their liberty and staff appeared to be generally very good. However, numerous complaints were received about the frequency of strip searches in prisons and the manner in which they were carried out; the CPT has highlighted the principles which should be applied in this regard.

Some positive developments were noted as regards the right of access to a lawyer for persons detained by the police. Such persons are now entitled to consult a lawyer prior to the first interrogation on the substance of their case. Nevertheless, it is stressed in the visit report that access to a lawyer should be guaranteed as from the very outset of deprivation of liberty.

Material conditions in the police stations visited were, on the whole, of a good standard. However, the delegation found that cells at the recently-built Apeldoorn Police Station did not comply with the relevant national regulations insofar as access to natural light is concerned. The report also expresses concern about conditions in the small and windowless holding facilities at Sprang-Capelle Police Station.

The CPT has welcomed the trend towards a decrease in the prison population in the Netherlands, which is in contrast to the situation in many other European countries. Material conditions in both of the prisons visited were of a high standard. Regarding the regime applied to prisoners, the report highlights the situation of foreign prisoners with “VRIS” status (“Vreemdelingen in de Strafrechtketen”). The CPT has recommended that the programme of activities available to these prisoners be reviewed, with a view to ensuring that they are not disadvantaged in comparison with the general prison population.

Material conditions at the Rotterdam Airport Detention Centre for Foreigners were of a high standard and, unlike the situation observed during the CPT’s previous visit in 2007, the activities offered to immigration detainees were varied and stimulating. Nevertheless, the report notes with concern that families with children are on occasion held at the Centre for lengthy periods. Some recommendations are also made aimed at further improving the health-care services at the Centre.

One of the objectives of the visit was to examine the procedures followed as regards the deportation of foreign nationals by air. In many aspects, the CPT’s findings are positive. However, recommendations are made concerning the medical examination of deportees (“fit to fly certificate”).

Patients’ living conditions in the three psychiatric institutions visited were on the whole very good. In an extensive chapter of the visit report, comments and recommendations are made on a variety of issues related to the treatment of patients. More generally, concerns are expressed about the challenges currently facing the TBS (terbeschikkingstelling) system.

The CPT's report has been made public at the request of the Dutch authorities and is available in English on the Committee's website:

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