A new anti-torture report reveals that Bosnia and Herzegovina has failed to comply with “the bulk” of recommendations designed to improve the treatment of detained people.
Today’s report from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) assesses the progress made since the committee’s previous visits in 2011 and 2012.
It states that “the committee expresses concern regarding the fact that the bulk of its previous recommendations regarding a purposeful regime for remand prisoners, prison healthcare and safeguards for the prevention of police ill-treatment have not been implemented.”
The CPT report confirms that its delegation received “a considerable number of allegations of widespread physical ill-treatment of detained persons by law enforcement officials. The allegations mostly concerned slaps, punches and truncheon blows but also included prolonged handcuffing in stress positions, the use of non-standard instruments, mock executions and the use of a hand-held electro-shock device.”
The CPT urges the authorities to “promote a culture change within the ranks of law enforcement officials, to enhance professional training in modern scientific methods of criminal investigation and to carry out effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment.
“To this end,the CPT is again critical of the lack of action taken by prosecutors and judges to investigate allegations of ill-treatment and, by way of example, notes that the arrangements in place for investigating such allegations in the Canton of Sarajevo are inadequate.
“The CPT recommends that fully independent police complaints bodies be established and that, until this occurs, prosecutors should seek support from police internal control units when investigating allegations of police ill-treatment.
“The delegation also found that safeguards against police ill-treatment, notably the right of access to a lawyer, still do not apply in practice as from the outset of deprivation of liberty.
“The BiH authorities are again urged to adopt specific legal provisions on access to a doctor during police custody.”
According to the report, “the material conditions in most of the police holding facilities visited by the delegation were unfit for holding persons overnight (lack of access to natural light, poor ventilation, deplorable hygienic conditions and an absence of mattresses and bedding).
CPT experts visited prisons in the country. The report states that “the majority of prisoners met by the CPT’s delegation stated they were treated correctly by staff.
“Nevertheless, several allegations of ill-treatment of inmates by staff were received at Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Doboj, Mostar, Tuzla and Zenica Prisons, consisting notably of slaps, punches, kicks and blows with truncheons.
“Not only should a strong message be delivered to penitentiary staff that ill-treatment of prisoners is not acceptable but more training modules on manual control techniques and inter-personal skills should be offered to custodial staff and independent investigations.”