The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has today published the report of its ad hoc visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) of September 2021, along with the response of the authorities.
During the visit, the CPT delegation examined the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by various police agencies, in particular in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), and the effectiveness of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by the police. The delegation also examined the treatment of pre-trial detainees in four prison establishments under the FBiH and State Ministries of Justice.
As was the case during its previous visit in 2019, the CPT once again received numerous allegations of physical ill-treatment of detained persons by police officers, notably from the Sarajevo Cantonal Police. These consisted mainly of slaps, punches, kicks and blows with batons and the butts of service weapons inflicted by police officers on criminal suspects, either at the time of their arrest or during interrogation. The report describes several specific individual cases, supported by medical evidence.
The CPT considers that ill-treatment by police officers remains a serious problem which requires vigorous action by the BiH authorities, including a formal statement at the highest political level expressing a policy of zero tolerance towards police misconduct, targeted training activities on the professional interviewing of criminal suspects, and the introduction of audio-video electronic recording of all police interviews. The report concludes that the failure of the BiH authorities to address such serious and persistent concerns may lead the Committee to consider the opening of the procedure under Article 10, paragraph 2, of its Convention.
A detailed assessment of prosecutorial and administrative investigations into allegations of ill-treatment revealed that, in numerous instances, such investigations cannot be considered to be effective, particularly in view of their lack of timeliness and thoroughness. In particular, the CPT noted a lack of proactive action by prosecutors in the use of special investigative measures and a formalistic approach in their communication and cooperation with the police. The Committee recommends that the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council adopt a binding instruction on the methodology of investigations into cases of alleged ill-treatment by the police.
As regards legal safeguards against ill-treatment, measures must be taken to guarantee the right of access to a lawyer from the outset of detention and to ensure that medical examinations of detained persons in hospitals are always conducted out of the hearing of police officers.
The CPT received a number of allegations of excessive use of force (punches and slaps) and verbal abuse of persons in remand detention at the Sarajevo and Zenica Prisons and at the State Prison of BiH, and makes specific recommendations with a view to preventing such incidents.
The Committee remains critical of the fact that, with the exception of the State Prison, in the other prisons visited (Mostar, Sarajevo and Zenica Prisons), pre-trial detainees continued to be locked in their cells for more than 22 hours a day for months on end without any purposeful activity on offer. Further, a gender-specific approach should be introduced for women on remand detention in order to compensate for the long periods of de facto solitary confinement to which they are subjected.
With regard to the provision of healthcare to pre-trial detainees, the report concludes that little progress has been made since the Committee’s previous visits. In the Committee’s view the FBiH Ministries of Justice and Health need to work together to ensure that every detainee newly admitted to prison undergoes a prompt and thorough medical examination, including screening for transmissible diseases.
In their reply, the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina provide information on the measures taken in response to the CPT’s recommendations.
Read the report (in English, in Bosnian)
Read the executive summary (in English, in Bosnian)
Read the Government response (in English, in Bosnian)
The CPT and Bosnia and Herzegovina
. Article 10, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment reads as follows: “If the Party fails to co-operate or refuses to improve the situation in the light of the Committee’s recommendations, the Committee may decide, after the Party has had an opportunity to make known its views, by a majority of two-thirds of its members to make a public statement on the matter.”