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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Denmark

Strasbourg, 17.09.2014 – The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its fifth periodic visit to Denmark, which took place in February 2014. In the course of the visit, the CPT’s delegation focused on the treatment of inmates in several prison establishments, as well as of young persons held in two secure institutions for juveniles. In addition, three psychiatric establishments were visited, with a particular focus on the use of coercive measures on patients. The delegation also visited several police stations and the Ellebæk immigration detention centre.

In relation to prison matters, no allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment by prison staff were received and the report notes positively the downward trend in the resort to solitary confinement of remand prisoners by court order. That said, the CPT reiterates its recommendation to reinforce the safeguards surrounding the application of judicial restrictions on remand prisoners’ contacts with the outside world. There is also a need to ensure that all inmates are properly interviewed and physically examined by health-care staff within 24 hours of their admission to prison. The CPT is again critical of the application of the measure of immobilisation in prisons and recommends that steps be taken to ensure that the principles and minimum safeguards set out by the Committee are applied rigorously. The report further refers to cultural and linguistic communication problems between foreign national prisoners and staff which could easily deteriorate into conflictual behaviour and result in the application of force by staff; the CPT recommends enhanced training of prison officers, particularly as regards inter-personal communication skills. At Ringe State Prison, the CPT was concerned about inter-prisoner violence, intimidation and sexual exploitation and recommends inter alia that a comprehensive anti-bullying strategy be put in place.
In respect of Grenen and Sølager Secure Institutions for Juveniles, the report comments favourably on the wide range of structured activities offered, the supportive pedagogical approach and the accommodation of juveniles in well-staffed small living units. Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned that the majority of juveniles on remand had judicial restrictions placed on their contacts with the outside world, often for extensive periods. The report is also critical of the practice found at Grenen, where juveniles were usually confined to their rooms upon admission to the institution for up to a week or longer before being permitted to take outdoor exercise and to associate with the rest of the group.
As regards psychiatry, the report notes positively the constructive attitude and the overall acknowledgement, both by the central authorities and the staff in the hospitals visited, of the need to reduce the resort to physical immobilisation of patients to a bed (fiksering) in psychiatric hospitals. However, the CPT remains seriously concerned that resort to immobilisation, and notably immobilisation lasting longer than 48 hours, had reached all-time peaks in 2012 and 2013. It considers that this and other shortcomings found in the three psychiatric hospitals visited, are at least partly due to low staffing levels and recommends to reinforce notably the number of nurses. The Committee further examined the special coercive measure of “walking-restraint” at the Secure Department of Nykøbing Sjælland Psychiatric Hospital and its relationship to the use of mechanical restraint and isolation measures.
The report also makes a number of recommendations in relation to police matters and Ellebæk immigration detention centre and comments on the recently established Police Complaints Authority.

The visit report has been made public at the request of the Danish authorities and is available on the CPT’s website:

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