New report from European conference on torture: Strengthen legal guarantees and fight torture in police custody

The 22-23rd of March 2018 23 European countries met for a conference in Copenhagen to discuss the fight against torture during police custody and pre-trial detention. The conference was arranged during Denmark’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, where the country had picked torture as one of the focus areas. DIGNITY co-organised the conference

 Foto: UM.dk

Based on the conference and the countries' discussions and exchange of experiences, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just released a report, which summarises the points from the conference and provides forward-looking recommendations to the member states. The report emphasises, among other things, that the most effective safeguard against torture is, if the police respects the detainee’s legal guarantees, such as access to a lawyer, the right of access to a doctor and the right to notify the family.

Norway and Georgia in front
The report especially highlights Norway and Georgia as good examples of countries that have made a great effort to prevent torture in police custody:

-Norway and Georgia are two very different examples of how torture can be prevented most effectively, and can be seen as great inspiration for other countries, says legal director in DIGNITY and member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), Therese Rytter.

Over the years, Norway has reformed the interrogation methods used by the police, and today, investigative interviewing is used to a far greater extent. The point of the method is that the police – with an open mind – seek to obtain accurate and credible information to clarify what actually happened in a given case. Today Norway hardly ever has any incidents of assault in police custody. When it comes to Georgia, the country has, after the independence from Soviet UNION, completed comprehensive legislative and practical reforms. This means that there now is a much more specialised police system, where the detainee immediately after arrest is transferred from police custody to personnel trained in health and human rights. Specialisation and separation between different parts of the police have contributed to a drastic fall in the level of police violence, it says in the report.

Even number one can still advance

Denmark is internationally recognised for its leading role in the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Yet Denmark can also learn from the report, says Therese Rytter.

-We are not completely there yet. Denmark’s legal guarantees need to be even stronger to be completely in line with international standards. For example, Denmark has previously been criticised for not securing the detainee’s access to a lawyer from the time of arrest and for not systematically informing the arrested about his / her rights.

Denmark's efforts against torture will be tested next year, when the country is to be evaluated by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

Read the report here.
Read the background analysis here.