Preventing ill-treatment of
persons deprived of their liberty in Europe
The CPT organises visits to places of
detention, in order to assess how persons deprived of their liberty are treated.
These places include prisons, juvenile detention centres, police stations,
holding centres for immigration detainees, psychiatric hospitals, social care
CPT delegations have unlimited access to
places of detention, and the right to move inside such places without
restriction. They interview persons deprived of their liberty in private, and
communicate freely with anyone who can provide information.
After each visit, the CPT sends a
detailed report to the State concerned. This report includes the CPT’s findings,
and its recommendations, comments and requests for information. The CPT also
requests a detailed response to the issues raised in its report. These reports
and responses form part of the ongoing dialogue with the States concerned.
The CPT’s full title is the “European
Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment”. This highlights two important features: first, it is European in
coverage, and second, it not only covers “torture”, but also a whole range of
situations which could amount to “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
A system of visits
Visits are carried out by delegations,
usually made up of several CPT members, accompanied by staff members of the
Committee's Secretariat and, if necessary, by additional experts and
CPT delegations carry out visits on a
periodic basis (usually once every four years), but additional “ad hoc” visits
are carried out when necessary.
The Committee must notify the State
concerned that it intends to carry out a visit. After notification, the CPT
delegation may go to any place where persons may be deprived of their liberty at
any time and without notice.
Co-operation and confidentiality
The principles of co-operation and
confidentiality are embodied in the international agreement (“Convention”) which establishes
- Co-operation with the national authorities is at the heart of the CPT’s
work, since the aim is to protect persons deprived of their liberty rather
than to condemn States for abuses.
- Confidentiality is another characteristic of the work of the CPT: the
Committee’s findings, its reports and the governments’ responses are, in
principle, confidential. Nevertheless, a great deal of information about the
CPT’s work is in the public domain.
- The State itself may request publication of the CPT’s report, together
with its own response. So far, most States have chosen to publish these
- If a State fails to co-operate or refuses to improve the situation in the
light of the CPT's recommendations, the Committee may decide to make a “public
- In addition, the CPT draws up a “General Report” on its activities, which
is published once a year.
Structure of the CPT
- The CPT's members are independent and impartial experts from a variety of
backgrounds, including lawyers, medical doctors and specialists in prison or
- One member is elected by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in
respect of each State Party. The members serve in their individual capacity
(i.e. they do not represent the State in respect of which they have been
elected.) To further guarantee independence, members do not visit the State in
respect of which they have been elected.
- The Secretariat of the CPT forms part of the Council of Europe's
“Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law”.
- The CPT was set up under the Council of Europe’s “European Convention for the
Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”, which
came into force in 1989.
- It builds on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which
provides that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment”.
- The CPT is not an investigative body, but provides a non-judicial
preventive mechanism to protect persons deprived of their liberty against
torture and other forms of ill-treatment. It thus complements the judicial work of the
European Court of Human Rights.
- The Convention has been ratified by all the 47 member States of the Council of
- In addition, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe may invite any
non-member State of the Organisation to accede to the Convention.
(as of 22/05/2013)
- 341 visits (204 periodic visits + 137 ad hoc visits)
- 285 CPT reports published
- The CPT in brief [CPT/Inf/E (2010) 1]
- CPT standards [CPT/Inf/E (2002) 1 - Rev. 2011]
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment [CPT/Inf/C (2002) 1]
visit by the CPT – What’s it all about ? (1999),
written by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) in
co-operation with the Council of Europe and the Geneva Police Service
[published within the Council
of Europe's "Police and Human Rights" Programme]