Ill-treatment by public officials has been prohibited by international and regional instruments and conventions for many decades. Not only is it contrary to international normative standards, but it undermines the rule of law, and is inimical to democracy itself.
Yet torture and other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of state officials, and particularly those engaged in the criminal justice systems of member states, continue to feature in many European countries.
Evidence suggests that law enforcement officials in many countries frequently, if not routinely, use excessive force when carrying out their law enforcement or public order functions. Since 1957, more than one in ten violations of the ECHR has concerned Article 3, and more than a quarter of those cases involved lack of effective investigation. It also appears that the incidence of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment is not declining. In 2013, more than a quarter of violations found by the ECtHR concerned Article 3, and in more than a quarter of those cases, the court found there to have been a lack of effective investigation.
However, it is evident that torture is not encountered across all European states, and in some appears to be all but non-existent. So, the critical questions are why does torture and serious ill-treatment occur in some jurisdictions and not others, what are the relevant variables, and can lessons be learned from states that have a low incidence of torture and ill-treatment that can be used to improve the position in those countries that have a poor record in this respect?
This research project tried to analyse these questions and come up with recommendations as to the improvement of the European torture and ill-treatment prevention and investigation.
The project carried out in 7 European countries and funded by the Open Society Foundations.
The pictures on the website and in the publication have been used by the kind permission of Mr Gergely Fliegauf, former member of the CPT who took these pictures himself in various prisons (More prison pictures are available at his blog). The drawings and paintings shown in the pictures have been made by prison inmates.