Prisoners in Kosovo Denounce Mistreatment During Interviews to Anti-Torture Committee

Prisoners in Kosovo have complained to the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture that they have been mistreated and threatened at the time of arrest, and during police questioning.

The allegations were published in the report, published following a 2020 visit by the Committee.

Most interviewees said they were not ill-treated by police but a number of allegations were recorded about physical ill-treatment at the time of apprehension and during police questioning. These included threats of physical ill-treatment during interviews, verbal abuse, and excessively tight handcuffing.

The Committee said the police must take steps to combat ill-treatment and they should deliver a clear message to all employees that ill-treatment, including verbal abuse, is unlawful and will be punished.

Also noted was the fact that while safeguards against ill-treatment are in place, additional steps are required to ensure they’re implemented.

The CPT fielded numerous claims that requests by a detained person to notify a third person had not been granted by the police. Furthermore, request for a lawyer was ignored until after the first questioning by a police officer, or even during the first appearance in front of a judge. Many said they were not informed of their rights during the initial stage of police custody.

Prisoners also said there were issues with corruption. The Committee noted a widespread belief that things could. be bought, including drugs, mobile phones and preferential treatment. Authorities have been asked to increase efforts to combat corruption in Kosovo’s prisons, including sending a clear message to staff that obtaining or demanding money from a prisoner is unacceptable.

In terms of conditions, they were deemed generally acceptable but a number of recommendations were made. This included a request to make the environment “less oppressive”.

Since the last visit, in 2015, a number of improvements were noted. These include the opening of new establishments and the fact prisons were not overcrowded. Additionally, a Prisoner Assessment and Classification Unit was opened in Prishtine and healthcare is now provided to all prisoners.  Staff and doctor numbers were adequate and each unit has a full-time clinical psychologist.

In the country’s psychological units, there were little to no complaints from those interviewed and conditions were observed as good.