Albania: Torture and ill-treatment in places of detention

The Albanian penitentiary system is comprised by 22 penitentiary facilities (pretrial detention and prisons); some inherited from the previous Communist regime and some newly built. While the new facilities have significantly raised the standard for conditions of detention, the remaining 19 old facilities face a series of challenges including problems with material conditions, hygiene and lack of professional staff. These problems are well documented in numerous visit reports by the European Committee on Prevention of Torture (CPT) and are thus well know by the Albanian authorities. The situation in police pretrial facilities is of grave concern with approximately, 25% of detainees suveyed by ARCT in 2012 reporting being exposed to violence during arrest or custody. In addition, various internal police inspection reports have documented unsuitable detention conditions and treatments of detainees in police lockups including: overcrowding and prolonged stays for persons in police custodial cells - sometimes up to 10 days and longer compared to the legal limit of 48 hours, substandard physical conditions, lack of access to health and mental health care, inadequate protection for vulnerable persons, abuse of detainees, poor sanitary conditions, lack of adequate accommodation, and juveniles being held with adults.

Monitoring places of deprivation of liberty (particularly police custodial cells and pretrial detention) re-mains the most important element in ending these violations. In accordance with the Albanian Constitution and national legislation, prisons and police authorities have various internal monitoring mechanism. Since 2010, the institution of People’s Advocate has been functioning as the Albanian National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). Unfortunately, the internal mechanisms do not provide reliable reporting and the People’s Advocate is not effectively executing its mandate in accordance with the OPCAT. This is due to a wide variety of problems including inadequate resourcing; lack of professional staff; and lack of an evidence-based system of documentation and monitoring of torture and ill-treatment. Since the new Peoples Advocate took office in December 2011, few NPM visits have been undertaken and there appear to be no comprehensive monitoring methodology or visit schedule in place. The head of NPM has been replaced more than 3 times during the last year, and it is operating with only a part-time staff member resulting on the monitoring visits being delegated to specialists from other departments. All of these factors impedes the mechanism from fully implementing its mandate.

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