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[Europe File] ACATs and the CPT: a step-by-step guide

January 2011

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FACT SHEET N░ 12: ACATs and the CPT: a step-by-step guide

Overview of the CPT

The CPT does not act as judge, informant or accuser. It assists countries in their efforts to step up protection for individuals deprived of their liberty from ill-treatment.

Two principles govern its activities:

-  Cooperation with governments

-  Confidentiality

The CPT conducts two types of visit:

-  Regular visits, conducted in every country at regular intervals to ascertain developments in the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, especially in relation to previous CPT recommendations, and

-  Ad hoc visits, as circumstances demand: these are triggered by disturbing information on specific individuals or places, or by the need to follow up recommendations or to assess a new type of situation.
Such visits can be arranged extremely quickly. Flexibility is the order of the day.

"forewarned is forearmed". Consequently, the CPT monitors situations which might become volatile, chiefly using the information it receives.

Where does the CPT operate?

In places such as:
-  Prisons

-  Police stations (police custody, detention on remand etc.)

-  Juvenile detention centres

-  Psychiatric hospitals

-  Holding centres and transit areas

In fact, the CPT operates in any place where persons are deprived of their liberty. Such a place may be a formally established and recognised detention facility; it may also be a railway carriage, a van, a shed, a garage, a warehouse, or any other improvised facility used by members of a public authority for the purpose of depriving someone of their liberty.

States are required to provide the CPT with details of all places of deprivation of liberty within their borders and update this information.

Following its visit, the CPT sends the government concerned a confidential report containing the facts observed and its recommendations. It can take between four and six months to draw up a report, since the process involves adoption by the CPT at its plenary session, as well as drafting time.

In practical terms this has meant in practice that the CPT has adopted the practice of meeting the authorities in the country prior to the delegation’s departure in order to give them its initial impressions. As a result the government is able to learn immediately of the facts observed and the problems encountered, and to respond as speedily as possible. Some publish these initial findings.

Please make use of the CPT website - it is a mine of information!

Preparation of visits

The CPT compiles information in preparation for its visits. Its sources are wide-ranging and varied:

-  Governments;

-  Other organisations, the European Union, the United Nations, field missions, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the High Commissioner for Refugees;

-  Persons deprived of their liberty, who in many countries are allowed confidential contact with the CPT.

It also obtains information from NGOs.

The CPT makes a point of meeting with NGOs on the first day of its visit to a country. What is more, it maintains regular contact with international NGOs.

NGOs which send information automatically receive an acknowledgment of receipt. The strict principle of confidentiality laid down in the Convention rules out the possibility of providing feedback on any measures that the CPT might have taken in response to the information submitted by the NGOs.

Three information sources for ACATs:

- The news flashes or press release published after a CPT visit to a country, reporting on the visit, the matters dealt with and the places visited. The press release details whether or not our concerns have been taken into consideration.

- The General Report on the CPT’s activities, published in or around September of each year, which also highlights topical issues on which the CPT gives its view. Moreover, it provides useful pointers relating to some visits.

- Reports made public at the request of States, together with their replies.

Where and when to send the CPT information:

Do not wait to be contacted before taking action. For obvious reasons the CPT cannot take it upon itself to contact every single NGO in the 47 member states.

Towards the end of each year the CPT publishes its programme of regular visits on its website. The list details all of the countries to be visited the following year. If your country is on the list, FIACAT will forward this information to you.

Once you know that your country is on the CPT visit list, you can send the CPT the documents you have available or any other relevant information.

Information to relay:

-  Do not pass on second- or third-hand information.

More detailed information is given in the Annex entitled "Useful information for NGOs to forward to the CPT".

-  Be specific: Where were the reported abuses committed? When? How? And by whom?

-  Do not cite information that dates back more than two years.

-  Provide the dates of the alleged incidents.

-  Give a precise description of the facts underlying the complaint (number of occasions, types of abuse).

-  Where possible, specify the alleged perpetrators (i.e. uniformed or plain clothed police officers, etc.).

-  Give as exact a description as possible of where the incidents are alleged to have taken place.

What the CPT does with the information it receives?

The CPT takes account of the information it receives in this way when preparing for its visits.

If need be, it can also move immediately to draw the attention of the authorities in the relevant country of the circumstances relating either to an individual or to a given place [NB: we will not be informed of such a move!]. (See Article 30 of the CPT’s Rules of Procedure, which states that the CPT may request information or explanations as regards the general situation in the State concerned. This may result in an ad hoc visit.)

Follow-up to recommendations

The CPT has put together a set of standards, which you will find on its website at: http://www.cpt.coe.int/en/docsstand....

These standards have been the driving force behind a number of significant Council of Europe initiatives which, in turn, have led to recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states.

The CPT has also played a prominent part in the work resulting in the Twenty Guidelines on the forced return of foreign nationals. Lastly, the CPT has been closely involved in revising the European Prison Rules (EPR). ).

The European Court of Human Rights has been making increasingly frequent references to observations in the CPT’s public reports.

Follow-up of recommendations by NGOs:

1) Encouraging States to publish CPT reports The appendices to the General Reports on the CPT’s activities provide details as to whether or not a country has published a CPT visit report. NGOs can call on governments to publish a report. Nowadays, it is customary for them to do so.

It is important to ensure that publication takes place quickly - publishing a report years down the line does not have the same impact.

2) Following up recommendations: keeping up the pressure Steps taken by States to implement recommendations must be monitored. If you wish, you may submit an alternative report to the CPT giving your view of the implementation of CPT recommendations by your country.

3) Initiatives to raise the CPT’s profile and raise public awareness about the CPT itself, its work and its reports

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