Baku/27.04.19/Turan: The European Committee to Prevent Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) stressed the need for police forces to improve the way they interrogate suspects in criminal investigations. In its annual report, published on April 26, the CPT states that in some countries the interview with the police is still aimed at obtaining confessions, which increases the risk of ill-treatment, while it should be focused on obtaining accurate and reliable information on matters under investigation.
The CPT emphasizes that ill-treatment during police interrogations remains a very serious problem in a significant number of countries. Over the past ten years, in nearly a third of the Council of Europe”s member states, the Committee has received reports of police brutality that can be described as torture.
In order to prevent ill-treatment of the police, the report recommends that national authorities develop clear rules or guidelines for conducting police interrogations based on the so-called investigative interrogation approach. Such an approach is “non-accusatory” and reduces the risk of human error and false confessions. It developed in some member-states of the Council of Europe, and inspired CPT to conduct monitoring. These actions are gradually becoming widely accepted at a universal level.
Such talks were held in Azerbaijan on 31 May and 1 June 2018 to discuss the state of co-operation between the CPT and the Azerbaijani authorities and, in particular, the implementation of the CPT”s long-standing recommendations concerning law enforcement agencies and prisons, including those made in the report on the CPT”s October 2017 ad hoc visit. Investigations into several complaints of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, of which the CPT had become aware in the period between its 2015 and 2017 ad hoc visits, were also discussed in depth. In the margins of a Committee Special publication of reports and responses on seven visits to Azerbaijan (dating from 2004 to 2017). During 2018, the CPT published, at the request of the Azerbaijani authorities, seven reports on its visits to Azerbaijan (in 2004, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017), together with the responses of the Azerbaijani Government. This means that all of the CPT”s reports on its visits to Azerbaijan to date are in the public domain. The publication, which followed a period of particularly intense on-going dialogue between the CPT and the Azerbaijani authorities (including two sets of high-level talks in Baku, in February 2017 and May/June 2018), was a major breakthrough and a clear indication of the authorities” resolve to enhance their dialogue with the Committee. The CPT welcomed this decision, which could signal a new commitment to transparency in confronting many of the serious issues described by the CPT.
On the substance, the findings of the CPT”s visits suggest that torture and other forms of physical ill-treatment by the police and other law enforcement agencies, corruption in the whole law enforcement system and impunity remain systemic and endemic. The CPT has repeatedly observed, most recently during its ad hoc visit in October 2017, that torture and other forms of severe physical ill-treatment of persons detained by the police, other law enforcement agencies, and the army remain widespread. There is a serious problem of impunity (lack of effective investigations) and inoperative legal safeguards for detained persons (in particular when it comes to the provision of information on rights, notification of custody, access to a lawyer and access to a doctor).
Moreover, the findings during the 2017 ad hoc visit suggest the existence of a generalized culture of violence towards persons deprived of their liberty among the staff of various law enforcement agencies. Despite legislative reforms (the Executive Order by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On improvement of operation of the prison system, humanization of criminal policies, extension of application of alternative sanctions, and non-custodial preventive measures”), there is still a problem of prison overcrowding, poor material conditions, lack of activities (especially for remand and life-sentenced prisoners), and inadequate medical care.
The published reports also highlight serious problems in psychiatric hospitals and social care homes, including poor living conditions in many hospitals, violence between patients (especially at Ganja Psychiatric Hospital) and a lack of effective legal safeguards for involuntary patients. Despite the CPT”s repeated recommendations, the situation remains unsatisfactory at the Psycho-neurological Social Care Institution No. 3 in Qırıqlı, Göygöl district, where female residents are exposed to ill-treatment by staff and physical assaults by fellow residents, staff numbers are grossly insufficient, there is a lack of activities and the legal procedure for initial placement and its periodic review is not applied in practice. 33. The CPT trusts that the publication of these seven visit reports (and responses) marks the Azerbaijani authorities” resolve to address effectively the serious problems highlighted in its reports. As a first step, the CPT wishes to see the highest-level political authorities in the country making a public, firm and unequivocal statement of “zero tolerance” towards torture and other forms of ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in Azerbaijan. In this context, the CPT looks forward to the continuation of its co-operation with the Azerbaijani authorities with the aim of assisting Azerbaijan to implement the Committee”s long-standing recommendations.