Improving Judicial Cooperation Across the EU Through Harmonised Detention Standards – The Role of National Preventive Mechanisms

About the Project

Judicial cooperation in criminal matters in the EU is based on the principle of mutual recognition and the approximation of laws, i.e. the establishment of common minimum standards. Mutual recognition is based on mutual trust which – as emphasised by the CJEU – does not mean “blind trust” and must not lead to a violation of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. Thus, the respect of common minimum standards for the adequate treatment of detainees across the EU facilitate mutual trust because they minimise the risk that a surrender/transfer of a detainee to another Member State violate this absolute prohibition.

NPMs are in an ideal position to provide support in this regard, by strengthening the authorities’ awareness on standards, as well as monitoring and promoting their practical application. Exchange and cooperation between the 24 NPMs in the EU have proven to be highly useful to strengthen their work. The current project builds on previous activities carried out by the BIM and partner organisations in the EU.

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the effective, coherent and human rights compliant application of EU mutual recognition instruments in criminal matters. It specifically envisages to:

  • Clarify and consolidate existing standards
  • Strengthen the professional capacity of NPMs to effectively achieve change

Responding to the needs voiced in previous consultations with EU NPMs, SPT members and civil society organisations the project focused on non-material conditions in detention, namely:

  • Solitary confinement
  • Violence in detention
  • Complaints and the right to information
  • The treatment of certain groups in a situation of vulnerability

Within the framework of the Project several consultations and international events with EU National Preventive Mechanisms took place:

  • Workshop “Treatment of certain groups of prisoners in a situation of vulnerability” (Sofia, 18 – 19 November 2019);
  • Workshop “Isolation and solitary confinement in prison” (Rome, 27 – 28 January 2020);
  • Workshop “Requests, complaint procedures and the right to information in prisons” (online, 27 – 30 April 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic);
  • Workshop  “Preventive Monitoring of Violence in Prisons” (online, 20, 27 May and 3 June 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic)
  • Final Conference (online, 3 and 4 November 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic)

The events enabled a fruitful exchange of experiences and promising practices. Based on these extensive consultations with EU NPMs and other stakeholders, the two-year Project resulted in the publication of a series of Handbooks for National Preventive Mechanisms covering four thematic issues:

  • Monitoring prison violence – by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights
  • Monitoring solitary confinement in prison – by Associazione Antigone
  • Prisoners in a situation of vulnerability – by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  • Complaint procedures and the right to information in prisons – by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee

The series is further complemented by a Dossier on systemic thinking in preventive human rights monitoring by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights.

To reach a wider audience within the criminal justice community, including prison staff and policymakers, the key arguments and facts from the handbooks were also recast in the form of succinct briefing papers and short informative videos on the four thematic research areas.

Project Data

Persons involved: Giuliana Monina (Dec 2019 – March 2021), Philipp Hamedl (Jan 2019 – Dec 2020), Moritz Birk (Jan 2019 – Dec 2019)
Project Advisory Board: Wolfgang Gratz, Alison Liebling, Nora Sveaass, Dirk Van Zyl Smit, Association for the Prevention of Torture
Contact person: Giuliana Monina
Lead Organisation: Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights
Partner organisations: Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HU), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BG), Associazione Antigone (IT) Project start: 01/2019
Project end: 03/2021
Funded by: European Union, Directorate-General Justice of the European Commission; Bundesministerium für Verfassung, Reformen, Deregulierung und Justiz
Programme Line LBI-GMR: Human Dignity and Public Security