Strasbourg, 14.06.2012 – The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its visit to Serbia in February 2011 together with the response of the Serbian authorities.
In the course of the visit, the CPT’s delegation received several allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, including in respect of juveniles. The alleged ill-treatment consisted of slaps, punches, kicks and truncheon blows and concerned the time of apprehension or when suspects were being interrogated in police stations. The CPT has recommended that police officers be reminded that all forms of ill-treatment are unacceptable and will be the subject of severe sanctions.
In the authorities’ response, information is provided on criminal and disciplinary proceedings launched in recent years against law enforcement officials for acts of alleged ill-treatment. Reference is also made to a Plan for the construction and renovation of police detention facilities, taking account of recommendations made by the CPT.
Overcrowding was observed in all the prisons visited, especially at Belgrade District Prison. The report urges the authorities to redouble their efforts to counter this problem and to be guided in this respect by the relevant Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The CPT’s delegation received allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners by staff at Belgrade District Prison and in the high security unit (Pavilion VII) of Požarevac-Zabela Correctional Institution: specific recommendations are made on this subject. The report is also critical of the impoverished regime for remand prisoners, who are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day for months on end.
In their response, the authorities provide information on steps taken to tackle overcrowding in prisons, including the planned construction of three new prisons. They also state that additional sports and vocational activities for remand prisoners are now being organised.
During a follow-up visit to the Special Prison Hospital in Belgrade, the CPT’s delegation found that a combination of severe overcrowding, dilapidated facilities, lack of staff and limited therapeutic options was leading to conditions that could be considered as inhuman and degrading. The national authorities emphasise in their response that refurbishment of the hospital has been set as a priority and provide details of the work to be carried out.
The CPT’s delegation observed that there was a considerable risk of inter-patient violence at the Gornija Toponica Special Psychiatric Hospital. Further, despite steps being taken to refurbish the establishment, living conditions in the large capacity dormitories left much to be desired, in particular in the long-term male ward. The delegation also found that certain patients had not had access to outdoor exercise for more than seven months. In their response, the authorities refer to the efforts invested by the Ministry of Health in improving material conditions through refurbishing several wards at Gornija Toponica and increasing outdoor movements of patients in the establishment.
The CPT’s delegation heard no allegations of ill-treatment of residents by staff at the Juvenile Educational Institution in Niš. Juveniles interviewed spoke highly of the staff and the atmosphere in the establishment was relaxed.The CPT’s visit report and the response of the Serbian Government, which have been published at the request of the Serbian authorities, are available in English on: www.cpt.coe.int.