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Council of Europe´s new report on Romania: concern about abuse of prisoners by staff, inter-prisoner violence and allegations of police ill-treatment

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has expressed concern about several persistent problems in Romanian prisons - including the abuse of prisoners by staff and inter-prisoner violence - as well as about numerous allegations of police ill-treatment.

In a report published today on a visit to the country in February 2018, the CPT says that it received a considerable number of allegations of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by prison staff, notably by members of the masked intervention groups based in four of the five prisons visited. The situation was particularly alarming at Gala?i Prison where a climate of fear was evident (see the executive summary of the report in English andRomanian).

The CPT details several allegations of ill-treatment by staff corroborated by medical evidence, and raises serious concerns over the lack of recording of injuries by the health care service and failures to investigate allegations effectively. In the light of the grave findings, the CPT once again questions the purpose and modus operandi of the masked intervention groups and calls on the Romanian authorities to reconsider their existence. Instead, it proposes that a system of first-responders could be established, combined with an increase in the staffing complement on the maximum-security regime wings and the adoption of a dynamic security approach.

The report also documents several cases of severe beatings and sexual abuse by prisoners in their cells, notably among young adult prisoners at Bac?u Prison. The CPT urges the authorities to put in place a cell-share risk assessment process for each person entering prison before they are placed in an admission cell, followed by drawing up and implementing an individual risk and needs assessment. As part of the strategy to combat inter-prisoner violence, the CPT recommends that the authorities invest far more resources in recruiting additional staff and developing their professionalism and training.

The CPT concludes that the health care services in the prisons visited were in many instances not providing an adequate standard of care. Conflicts of interest of health care staff represented a major underlying problem which eroded the patients’ trust in their clinicians. The CPT recommends that the Romanian authorities ensure that clinical staff are truly independent of prison staff. The report also highlights the lack of psychiatric input evident in all the prisons visited, and that inmates suffering from a mental health illness had to cope with conditions of detention which impaired their mental and physical health.

More generally, the CPT notes positively the efforts invested in reform of the Romanian prison system since 2014, in particular in relation to the development of a probation service, the reduction in the prison population by some 30 per cent as well as the introduction of compensatory remedies for inmates held in overcrowded conditions. The authorities are encouraged to pursue the reform agenda which aims to ensure that all prisoners are held in decent conditions by 2024.

As regards law enforcement, the report notes that the majority of persons interviewed by the CPT’s delegation said that they had been treated correctly by police officers. Nevertheless, a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment (many of which corroborated by medical evidence) by police officers were received from detained persons. The allegations consisted primarily of slaps, punches, kicks and baton blows inflicted by police officers against criminal suspects either at the time of the arrest or during questioning at a police station, apparently for the primary purpose of coercing a confession. The CPT stresses that prosecutors should carry out investigations into allegations of police ill-treatment promptly and thoroughly.

The CPT again criticises the holding of criminal suspects and remand prisoners in police arrest detention centres for up to two months or more, where they are exposed to a greater risk of intimidation and pressure. These concerns are accentuated by the poor material conditions, inadequate health care and impoverished regime for persons held in arrest detention centres. Therefore, the CPT urges the Romanian authorities to consider converting arrest detention centres into proper pre-trial detention facilities and placing them under the authority of the Ministry of Justice and the National Prison Administration.

The report has been published together with the Romanian authorities’ response.