Anti-torture Committee (CPT) publishes report on Serbia

On 25 January 2024, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) released its report following a visit to Serbia in March 2023. Their primary focus was on examining the treatment of individuals deprived of their liberty by law enforcement and the effectiveness of investigations into allegations of ill-treatment. During their visit, they conducted assessments at four pre-trial detention facilities and an intensive care unit for juvenile offenders.

CPT found that in comparison to previous visits in 2017 and 2021, little improvement has been noted, and insufficient efforts of Serbian authorities in implementing previous recommendations.

Concerning instances of ill-treatment, the CPT outlines numerous incidents of severe ill-treatment and torture. In summary, the report concludes that the treatment of individuals deprived of their freedom by law enforcement, especially in the Belgrade region, has not shown any signs of improvement.

Regarding investigations into allegations of ill-treatment, the CPT identified various shortcomings. These included delays in case identification and the formation of investigative files, as well as a lack of promptness and thoroughness in investigations conducted by law enforcement officials and prosecutors. 

Prison conditions were also of concern, despite some improvement in Belgrade, with serious overcrowding and poor material conditions observed. These conditions, combined with neglect, could potentially amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. Pre-trial detainees faced particularly poor conditions, with extended periods in their cells and limited outdoor access.

Juvenile offenders housed in intensive care units also faced challenges, with numerous allegations of ill-treatment by staff. These allegations included incidents of corporal punishment in connection with inter-prisoner violence, escape attempts, or disobedient behavior. Additionally, rehabilitation activities for these offenders were found to be not sufficient. 

In response to these findings, among other things, the CPT recommended that Serbian authorities adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat ill-treatment that should include a zero-tolerance message regarding ill-treatment by the police. There is also needed improvement in injury recording systems, thorough investigations into allegations of ill-treatment, potential reorganization of prosecutorial work, and the introduction of possible specialization of prosecutors.