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Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Latvia


Strasbourg, 27.08.2013 – 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 visit to Latvia, carried out in September 2011. The report has been made public at the request of the Latvian authorities, together with their responses.
 
In the course of the 2011 visit, the CPT’s delegation received a number of allegations from detained persons of physical ill-treatment by the police (consisting mainly of punches, kicks and inappropriate use of truncheons) at the time of apprehension and during questioning. Some of these allegations were corroborated by the delegation’s own medical observations and other medical evidence. The CPT concludes in the report that persons in police custody continue to face a certain degree of risk of being subjected to ill-treatment and calls on the Latvian authorities to exercise constant vigilance in this area. As regards conditions of detention in police establishments, the Committee emphasises that the conditions in some of the detention facilities visited were so poor that they could be considered as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment.
 
In their response, the Latvian authorities refer to training and education programmes offered to police officers on various subjects, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, interrogation techniques, and the use of physical force, special means and weapons. Information is also provided on measures taken to improve material conditions in several police detention facilities.
 
As regards the situation in prisons, the vast majority of prisoners interviewed made no allegations of physical ill-treatment by staff; nevertheless, some allegations were received, in particular at Jelgava Prison. It transpired that inter-prisoner violence was a problem in all the establishments visited; in the Committee’s view, certain factors contributed to this phenomenon, including large-capacity accommodation units, cramped conditions in multi-occupancy cells (and consequential stress among prisoners), limited possibilities for most prisoners to occupy themselves and insufficient staffing levels. As for the provision of health care to prisoners, a number of major shortcomings (e.g. insufficient health-care staff, severe shortage of medication, problematic access to specialist care, etc.) were observed, with many inmates being denied effective health care.
 
Particular attention is paid in the report to the situation of life-sentenced prisoners. The CPT commends the steps taken by the Latvian authorities to improve material conditions of detention for this category of inmates and to develop a regime of activities for life-sentenced prisoners on the medium and high regime levels. However, the regime applied to life-sentenced prisoners on the low regime level (about 65 percent of all such prisoners) remains very impoverished, the vast majority of them being confined to their cells for up to 23 hours per day. Further, the Committee stresses once again that it can see no justification for the systematic handcuffing of almost all life-sentenced prisoners whenever they were escorted inside the prison; it calls upon the Latvian authorities to carry out a proper individual risk assessment in respect of these prisoners with a view to adjusting the security measures applied to them accordingly.
 
In their response, the Latvian authorities provide information on the measures they have taken or intend to take in order to address the recommendations made by the CPT on the issues described above.
 
The report also examines the treatment and living conditions of patients at a psychiatric clinic and of residents at a social care home, as well as the legal safeguards in the context of admission procedures.

  The CPT’s visit report and the responses of the Latvian authorities are available on the Committee's website: www.cpt.coe.int


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