Strasbourg, 25.01.2012 – A report by the Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee on prisons, police custody, psychiatric and mental health institutions in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, along with the government’s response, is published today.
The CPT’s report states that a significant number of persons alleged ill-treatment by police officers and recommends national authorities to continue to take action to combat ill-treatment by police, including an effective investigation into every allegation .
In response, the national authorities provide information on the investigations into the cases raised by the Committee and on action to promote respect for human rights by the police.
The report also states that fundamental change is required to address challenges facing the prison system, and is particularly critical of the lack of a professional management approach , low staffing ratios and an absence of accountability and clear rules. At Idrizovo Prison, the country’s largest establishment, a number of credible allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners by staff were received and inter-prisoner violence remained a significant problem. Many inmates were being held in deplorable living conditions, crammed together in a dilapidated, unsafe and unhygienic environment and most prisoners were offered no activities and locked in their units for up to 23 hours a day.
In the remand sections of Skopje and Tetovo Prisons, inmates were offered no organised activities of any sort and less than one hour of daily outdoor exercise, if any. The report also details the overcrowding and poor material conditions in which remand prisoners were kept. The CPT is particularly critical of the treatment of juveniles held on remand and recommends that action be taken to offer them educational and recreational activities and to ensure that they are never held in a situation of de facto solitary confinement.
The national authorities state that measures are being taken to improve the conditions of detention in the prisons, particularly at Idrizovo Prison, with the support of a Council of Europe Development Bank loan. The response also provides information on steps taken to combat ill-treatment by prison officers and, more specifically, to improve security at Idrizovo Prison. A new Rulebook has also been adopted aimed at offering all prisoners on remand a range of activities as well as the legal requirement of two hours of daily outdoor exercise.
As regards the three psychiatric hospitals visited, the CPT’s report refers to consistent allegations of ill-treatment of patients by staff, as well as of inter-patient violence, in particular at Demir Hisar Psychiatric Hospital. Recommendations are made on measures to put an end to this situation, including through a policy of zero-tolerance, improved staffing levels and professionalism and putting in place an independent system for complaints and inspections. Recommendations also include calls for the authorities to improve living conditions in the hospitals visited.
National authorities respond that protocols are being adopted to ensure proper conduct by medical staff towards patients and ongoing training for orderlies and nurses. Information is also provided on measures to improve living conditions.
At the Demir Kapija Special Institution for mentally disabled persons, the CPT observed relaxed, positive relations between staff and residents However, concerns were raised that the health-care needs of residents were not being adequately met. The national authorities responded that the quality of care to residents has improved following the recruitment of additional staff.
Both documents have been made public at the request of the national authorities.