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CPT report on the situation of detained persons and prisoners in Poland

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published a report on Poland.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights arranged a press conference devoted to the findings of the report. The event was attended by HFHR experts Piotr Kładoczny, Ireneusz Kamiński and Ewa Ostaszewska.The report describes the situation in Polish prisons and detention centres as observed during the CPT representatives’ visit to Poland in November and December 2009. During that time, twenty facilities were scrutinized, including not only prisons and police detention centres but also police establishments for children (children’s shelters), deportation detention centres and guarded centres for foreigners.

The CPT noticed a number of problems concerning the closed facilities: overcrowding in prisons, issues relating to the provision of medical care for detainees, ill-treatment of detainees by police officers and the lack of a properly developed legal aid system.

The report mentions the case of a Kraków resident arrested in October 2009 by officers of the Bielsko-Biała field office of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBŚ). The man told the CPT representatives that, immediately after making the arrest, the officers had beaten and kicked him, trying to force a confession. According to the detainee’s account, one of the officers put an electric stun device to his genitals for thirty seconds. The man complained to the warden of the remand centre in which he was held, who in turn submitted the complaint to the prosecution service. In its response to the report, the Polish Government informed the CPT that the District Prosecutor’s Office for Kraków (Śródmieście-Zachód district) had investigated the case but closed it, failing to establish the requisite elements of the alleged offence.

Another case described in the report involves an arrested individual from a village of Szamotuły in the Wielkopolska region. He was allegedly beaten and kicked by police officers and then tightly handcuffed. In this case, too, the prosecution service discontinued the investigation, which had been launched upon receipt of a letter from the CPT.

According to Ireneusz Kamiński, an HFHR legal expert, ‘If those two cases were brought before the European Court of Human Rights, it is highly probable that the Court would hold that no effective investigation had been conducted in Poland.’

The conference was also attended by Government representatives. Cezary Dziurkowski, representing the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Justice, emphasised that the authorities’ priority was to tackle the issue of overcrowding in prison cells. According to Mr. Dziurkowski, between 2006 and 2009, Polish prisons had to accommodate 17,000 additional inmates and an increasing number of convicts are now covered by the electronic surveillance (tagging) system.

The spokesperson for the Prison Service Authority, Lt. Col. Luiza Sałapa, noted that prisons generally had fewer inmates than beds available. However, as she added, individual prisons’ population levels varied because of, among other things, legal regulations requiring the separation of different categories of inmates.  ‘The prison reality today is far from the model of four square meters per inmate,’ admits Col. Sałapa.


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