In its latest report on police detention facilities, the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) stresses that Poland has failed to implement previous recommendations for proper legal and medical access, and that it needs to remedy excessive use of force at the time of apprehension or immediately after apprehension, among other concerns (see the executive summary of the report). The CPT reports an “absolute absence” of progress regarding “fundamental safeguards against ill-treatment” as its “deepest concern” following a visit to Poland of its delegation last year, which was the source of its new report. The “ad hoc visit” to Poland included meetings with people in custody in police establishments in Gdańsk, Krakòw, Sopot and Warsaw, as well as with recently arrived remand prisoners at Gdańsk, Krakòw and Warsaw-Służewiec Remand Prisons.

Adopted earlier this year and sent to the Polish authorities in March, the report repeats previous recommendations that Poland develop – “without further delay and in co-operation with the Polish Bar Council” – a fully-fledged and properly funded system of legal aid for persons in police custody who are not in a position to pay for a lawyer, to be applicable from the very outset of police custody. The delegation concludes that legal access remains “highly exceptional, even for juveniles” and that in practice, such access was only made available to the few apprehended persons who were wealthy enough to have their own lawyer and lucky enough to have their lawyer’s name and telephone number with them at the moment of apprehension.

Although those in need are provided medical care (i.e. either the police called an ambulance or took the detained person to a hospital emergency ward), they lack the fundamental right to confidentiality of medical examinations. “Any injuries observed on persons brought to police detention facilities continued to be poorly recorded (if at all) and non-medical police staff had unrestricted access to medical documentation concerning persons in police custody”, according to the report.

The CPT report and the response of the Polish authorities have been made public at the request of the Polish Government (see the Polish version of the response).