Council of Europe flags concern over Poland’s treatment of detainees

File photo. A Council of Europe meeting room. [Website of the Council of Europe]

The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee on Wednesday (28 October) expressed “serious concern” about conditions in police custody in Poland, urging “urgent and decisive action” by the authorities.

In a special report, the committee of Europe’s leading human rights body said a follow-up visit to police cells in 2019 yielded “a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment.

“Most of these allegations referred to the use of excessive force at the time of apprehension or immediately after apprehension,” the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) wrote in its report.

The visit was aimed at reviewing Poland’s implementation of long-standing recommendations by the CPT regarding the treatment of people in police custody, it said.

Detainees reported alleged ill-treatment that “consisted mainly of violently pushing a person face down to the ground (or facing towards a wall), kneeling over the person including on his/her face or stepping on him/her, occasionally accompanied by slaps, kicks and/or punches,” said the report.

“There were also numerous allegations of painful and prolonged handcuffing behind one’s back, and some persons alleged having been lifted by the handcuffs and/or dragged on the ground while cuffed.”

This risk of ill-treatment at the hands of police was a source of “ongoing serious concern to the CPT,” said the report which highlighted “serious deficiencies”.

It also expressed concern about detainees, even minors, being denied access to a lawyer or doctor.

“The CPT very much hopes that the present report will enable the highest-level Polish authorities, first of all the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, to become fully aware of this risk and to take long-overdue remedial and preventive action,” the committee said.

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