Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty. Fundamental Legal and Practical Issues – HFHR’s report
A delegation of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), which arrived on 9 July, will be visiting Poland until 19 July. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has prepared a report which presents its observations on the current situation in detention facilities.
The HFHR report is available in Polish and English and follows up the report published in May 2017 in connection with a visit of a delegation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).
The key conclusions of the latest publication are summarised below.
National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture (NMPT)
- The NMPT plays a special role within the system created in order to prevent the improper treatment of inmates at detention centres.
- The Mechanism’s mandate extends now to 2600 detention facilities.
- Due to budgetary constraints, the Commissioner for Human Rights is unable to fully exercise the duties arising under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
- The use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police officers has been a subject of heated discussions in Poland.
- Statistics show that each year more than 500 complaints alleging inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are filed against the police.
- Each year, several individuals approach the HFHR, complaining of having been mistreated by police officers.
- All attorneys who took part in Foundation’s survey confirmed that they had been in contact with clients reporting police mistreatment, which arguably satisfied the criteria established in Article 3 ECHR and Article 1(1) of the Convention Against Torture.
- Polish Criminal Code does not specify any stand-alone type of offence that would involve the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment by law enforcement and could be used to penalize such practices.
Prisons and detention centres
- Penitentiary facilities are still affected by incidents related to inhuman and degrading treatment connected with improper living conditions, inadequate medical care and the abuse of the category “high-risk inmate”, or an inmate posing a high risk to the public and safety of a penitentiary facility.
- Poland is yet to implement CPT and CAT recommendations to improve the standard of living space per an inmate to the level of 4 square meters per a person.
- Insufficient adaptation of penitentiary facilities to the needs of persons with disabilities remains a widespread problem.
Complaints of persons deprived of liberty at penitentiary facilities
- Only slightly over 1% of the complaints and accusations from persons deprived of liberty that are processed by the Prison Service (more than 40,000 nationally) have been accepted.
- The most frequent complaints are those related to the treatment of inmates by officers of the Prison Service, living conditions and healthcare.
- The system for handling complaints and penitentiary supervision is not a fully effective system of the protection of rights and freedoms of persons deprived of liberty.
National Centre for the Prevention of Dissocial Behaviours (NCPDB)
- The Act on proceedings against mentally disturbed persons who pose a threat to life, health or sexual liberty of others, which governs the post-conviction detention of mentally disturbed offenders raises significant controversies from the perspective of international human rights standards.
- The therapeutic value of a placement at the NCPDB is dubious as this type of detention may rather be perceived as a repressive measure violating the prohibition of double criminality and the principle of non-retroactive effect of law.
- Living conditions at the NCPDB may violate rights of Centre’s inmates.
- A case conducted by the HFHR before the European Court of Human Rights is a proof that further violations of human rights are likely to occur in this facility.
Guarded centres for foreigners
- Children of foreign nationals are deprived of liberty by being placed at immigration detention facilities, officially termed “guarded centres for foreigners” (between 2014 and 2017, this type of detention affected 1103 minors). They often stay there for months.
- According to reports, individuals staying at guarded centres for foreigners are increasingly more frequently exposed to violence and torture.
- Criminal justice authorities fail to exercise the required degree of care in reviewing these of the circumstances of foreigners’ placement and stay at guarded centres that prevent their detention.