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Anti-torture unit reports on Lithuania

Poor detention conditions, the excessive use of force in prisons and the overcrowding and segregation of life-sentenced prisoners come under scrutiny in a new anti-torture report on Lithuania.

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 27 November to 4 December 2012 visit to Lithuania, together with the response of the Lithuanian Government.

The report notes that the “CPT’s delegation received a number of consistent allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment and of excessive use of force (consisting mostly of punches, kicks and truncheon blows) by certain prison officers at Alytus Prison.

“In some cases, the delegation gathered medical evidence which were consistent with allegations made. Some allegations of inappropriate use of truncheons were also received at Šiauliai Prison.
“As regards investigations into complaints of ill-treatment by prison staff, the CPT expresses serious misgivings about their effectiveness.

“Further, the committee notes with great concern that there was a high level of inter-prisoner violence at Alytus Prison, partly attributable to the fact that only a small number of prison officers was present in prisoner accommodation areas during the day and even fewer at night or at weekends.”

The report also confirms “poor material conditions of detention and serious levels of overcrowding in most of the establishments visited, an impoverished regime for remand prisoners, and insufficient health-care staff resources at Alytus and Lukiškės Prisons.

“Particular attention is paid to the situation of persons sentenced to life imprisonment. The CPT stresses once again that there can be no justification for the systematic segregation of life-sentenced prisoners from other prisoners and urges the authorities to institute a process for integrating this category of prisoner into the general prison population.”

In their response, the Lithuanian authorities refer to training programmes offered to prison officers on the use of physical force and special means. They also confirm that steps are being taken to combat prison overcrowding, through an emphasis on non-custodial measures for remand prisoners (such as electronic surveillance) and developing alternatives to imprisonment.

The authorities also cite measures to improve material conditions in the prisons visited as well as plans to construct new prison establishments in Vilnius and Šiauliai.

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