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Strasbourg, 08.06.2010 – 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 fourth periodic visit to Hungary in March/April 2009, together with the response of the Hungarian authorities. Both documents have been made public at the request of the Hungarian authorities.
During the visit, the delegation received a few allegations of excessive use of force at the time of apprehension by the police. The CPT has recommended that a firm message continue to be delivered to police officers that no more force than is strictly necessary should be used when effecting an apprehension. In their response, the Hungarian authorities refer to instructions given to senior police officials to draw the attention of police officers to the legal consequences of the excessive use of force. Further, in response to the Committee’s recommendations aimed at strengthening the legal safeguards against ill-treatment (in particular the rights of notification of custody, access to a lawyer and access to a doctor), the authorities make reference to recent police instructions on prompt notification of custody.
The situation of a remand prisoner held in a high-security cell at the Budapest police central holding facility was of particular concern to the CPT. The person concerned was constantly under powerful spotlights within his cell and was subjected to multiple means of restraint whenever taken out of the cell. The Hungarian authorities indicate that the conditions of this prisoner have been improved.
As regards foreign nationals held under aliens legislation, the delegation received no allegations of ill-treatment, except at the Nyírbátor holding facility, where the atmosphere was tense. Material conditions of detention in the establishments visited were on the whole satisfactory. However, the paucity of purposeful activities for foreign nationals remains a matter of concern.
With regard to prisons, the delegation heard several credible accounts of physical ill-treatment of inmates by staff at Miskolc and Tiszalök Prisons. Further, at Miskolc Prison, overcrowding was compounded by serious understaffing which resulted in a high-risk situation in terms of inter-prisoner violence. At Sátoraljaújhely Prison, particular attention was paid to prisoners held in the Special Security Unit (KBK) and the report makes recommendations aimed at improving the placement procedure, developing a suitable programme of activities and minimising the use of means of restraint. According to the authorities’ response, new regulations on placement in a KBK are to be adopted in 2010. At Tiszalök Prison, which is one of the two prisons in Hungary involving private contractors, the programme of activities for prisoners did not correspond to the expectations. In their response, the Hungarian authorities indicate that action has been taken to create more work places at that establishment.
The CPT has criticised the disproportionate use of means of restraint to bring prisoners under control and certain excessive security arrangements (such as the routine body-belting of prisoners for transfers outside a prison). The Committee has also recommended that the Hungarian authorities review the regulations on the use of electric stun batons and stop using electric stun body-belts.
Turning to psychiatric establishments, most of the patients interviewed spoke positively of the attitude of staff. However, the delegation found clear indications of inter-patient violence in the closed ward of Unit II of Nyírő Gyula Hospital in Budapest. The CPT has recommended to equip bedrooms with doors and to separate patients in an acute psychotic condition from psycho-geriatric patients. The report also contains recommendations related to the practice of resorting to means of restraint and the implementation of the legal safeguards in the context of involuntary hospitalisation. In their response, the Hungarian authorities refer to new arrangements introduced to ensure that, whenever means of restraint are applied to a psychiatric patient, this is done out of the sight of other patients. Amendments to the Civil Procedure Act have also been drawn up to ensure that court decisions on involuntary hospitalisation are promptly delivered to the patients concerned.
The CPT's report and the response of the Hungarian authorities are available in English and Hungarian on the Committee's website (http://www.cpt.coe.int).