Press release - DC051(2017)

Anti-torture Committee: urgent action is required in prisons and police establishments in France

Strasbourg, 07.04.2017 - In a report published today on its most recent visit to France (15-27 November 2015), the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) calls on the French authorities to take urgent measures to address the problem of prison overcrowding, to improve the conditions of detention in prisons and police establishments, the conditions under which detainees are transferred to and treated in hospitals, and the guidelines on means of restraint in the psychiatric facilities visited.

During its visit, the CPT paid particular attention to the conditions of detention in three remand prisons (Fresnes, Nîmes and Villepinte) with serious overcrowding problems, noting an occupancy rate there of 150 to 180%. The situation was of particular concern in the prisons of Fresnes and Nîmes where the overcrowding and the lack of activities was compounded by serious problems with heating, damp and infestations.

The CPT calls on the authorities to improve the conditions of detention, to guarantee to each prisoner a minimum of 4 m² living space in shared cells and to provide separate beds in all prisons. It also asks for a review of the regime for so-called “radicalised‟ prisoners.

The CPT regrets that the conditions for transferring prisoners to outside hospitals and providing them with medical care continue to be unacceptable. It also noted that the shortage of prison staff actually present in the remand prisons visited had a serious impact on their operation.

The CPT delegation met several individuals who said that they had been assaulted by police officers during arrest or on police premises. These allegations, some of which were made by minors, concerned mainly situations which occurred in the Ile-de-France region. Moreover, a significant number of allegations of insults, particularly of a racist or homophobic nature, were received. The Committee recommends that measures be taken in order to regularly deliver a message of “zero tolerance‟ of ill-treatment to all law-enforcement officials, to improve their training and to initiate the necessary legal proceedings where such instances are reported.

The Committee is seriously concerned about the material conditions of detention in most of the police establishments visited: cells barely measuring 6 m² which are used to detain several people for long periods of time, including at night; absence of ventilation and windows; dirty, foul-smelling and soiled premises; lack of personal hygiene products.

Measures should also be taken to guarantee the right, including for minors, to be assisted by a lawyer in all circumstances from the very outset of custody.

With regard to the psychiatric institutions visited, the material conditions were, on the whole, satisfactory with an appropriate staffing level; the frequency and duration of mechanical restraints are nevertheless a cause for concern. The report also recommends that patients’ access to adequate information on their rights and avenues for appeal be improved.

Finally, the CPT expresses its concern about the absence of essential guarantees regarding placement in long-term care institutions and recommends that the authorities ensure that the competent courts are informed about the presence in these institutions of any residents who are unable or no longer able to give valid consent to their placement and who are not subject to a guardianship measure. Residents who are subject to such a measure should have the right to challenge the legality of their placement before a court, at reasonable intervals.

The main conclusions of the CPT are set out in the executive summary of the report (in French only).

The CPT report and the response (both in French only) of the French authorities have been made public at the request of the French Government.

Contact : Estelle Steiner, Spokesperson/Media officer, tel. +33 3 88 41 33 35

Council of Europe Directorate of Communications
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11