Council of Europe: Bulgaria Still Violates Detainees, Prisoners Rights
A report by the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has criticized Bulgaria over the poor conditions in investigation detention facilities (IDFs) and prisons.
The report on the committee ad hoc visit to Bulgaria in December 2008, together with the response of the Bulgarian authorities, were published on Thursday at the request of the Bulgarian authorities.
The main objective of the visit was to review progress as regards the implementation of previous CPT recommendations concerning conditions of detention in investigation detention facilities (IDFs) and prisons. The CPT also visited for the first time the Special Home for temporary placement of foreign nationals in Busmantsi.
At the Home in Busmantsi, the CPT’s delegation received several allegations of physical ill-treatment of detained foreign nationals by police staff. The ill-treatment alleged (consisting of slaps and kicks) was said to have taken place in the establishment’s solitary confinement unit. In this context, it appeared that staff had a wide margin of discretion to impose placement in a solitary confinement cell.
Material conditions at the Busmantsi Home were an improvement on those observed by the CPT in the past at the facility in Drouzhba (Sofia) previously used for the temporary accommodation of foreign nationals; further, the open-door policy during the day was a positive feature of the regime.
The report recommends that Bulgarian authorities reduce to a maximum of 72 hours the total period during which persons may be deprived of their liberty prior to being brought before a judge. Currently, the law provides for an initial period of 24 hours with the police, followed by up to 72-hour detention by a prosecutor's order.
The delegation came across a detained person who had spent more than 24 hours in police custody. According to the documentation consulted by the delegation, the person in question had been apprehended at 2.30 p.m. on the preceding day and was still at the police station after 4 p.m. on the day of the visit. Police officers tried to explain this delay first by claiming that they were waiting for the prosecutor's order for a 72-hour detention and then, when it transpired that the order had already been received, by stating that they were expecting the detained person's lawyer to come to meet his client.
The CPT also recommends that the Bulgarian authorities recall to all police officers the legal obligation to grant access to a lawyer from the very outset of a person's deprivation of liberty, that the confidentiality of medical data be strictly observed, without prejudice to the right of the person concerned to make reference to that medical data and that the "declaration of rights" be made available in the languages most commonly spoken by foreign nationals detained in Bulgaria.
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