20 Jul 2021 by Ludwig Boltzmann

FINAL REPORT: SEE NPM Network ‘Strengthening the prevention of torture in South-East Europe’

Within the criminal justice system, the first hours of police custody bear the highest risks of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Fundamental safeguards can greatly mitigate such risks and contribute to preventing potential abuses during police custody. Relevant fundamental safeguards encompass the rights of access to a lawyer, the right of access to a doctor, the right to notify the detention to a third party as well as the right to be informed about these rights.

Whilst most States have enshrined the safeguards in their national legislation, their operationalization remains challenging.

National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) can play an essential role in this regard, due to their extensive monitoring powers allowing them to have access to all places of detention, all persons deprived of liberty and information. The monitoring of safeguards, however, is a peculiar exercise involving various practical challenges: How can NPMs monitor the safeguards if, when visiting a police station, they find no detainee to interview? What tools can be used to make the most of a monitoring visit? How to follow-up effectively?

The Project “Strengthening the Prevention of Torture in South-East Europe: for an Effective Monitoring of Safeguards in Police Custody” was implemented by the Croatian National Preventive Mechanism on the occasion of the Croation Chairmanship of the South-East European NPM Network together with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GMR), the Association for the Prevention of Torture and with the support of the Joint Project “European NPM Forum”, funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe and implemented by the Council of Europe.

Within the Project, the following events took place:

  • The first Workshop ‘Strengthening the prevention of torture in South-East Europe: Monitoring safeguards in the first hours of police custody’(held on 12–13 October 2020, online)
  • The second Workshop ‘Strengthening the prevention of torture in South-East Europe: Monitoring safeguards in the first hours of police custody’ (held on 7th December 2020, online)

During the Workshops, NPMs from the SEE area and other international experts discussed how to effectively monitor the implementation of safeguards against torture and ill-treatment in the first hours of police custody and had the opportunity for a peer to peer exchange on promising practices.

The extensive consultations among the NPMs of the SEE area resulted in a Final Report authored by our expert Giuliana Monina, Head of the Programme line “Human Dignity and Public Security”. The report was written in cooperation with Anica Tomšić-Stojkovska (Member of the Croatian NPM, Ombudsman of the Republic of Croatia), Barbara Bernath (Secretary General, Association for the Prevention of Torture) and Sebastian Rietz (Project Manager, “European NPM Forum”, Council of Europe).

The final report and additional project material are also available in the recently established website of the SEE NPM Network.

To learn more about our Institute’s work on procedural safeguards and how they can be strengthened thanks to the work of oversight mechanisms see the project: “Strengthening the rights of persons suspected or accused in criminal proceedings – the role of National Human Rights Institutions“.

The final report of the project is available in the download area.