The Council of Europe on Tuesday called on the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take "vigorous action" to address the problem of police ill-treatment of prisoners.
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) said in a report that its delegation received allegations of physical and psychological ill-treatment of detained persons by police officers in the country’s Bosniak-Croat Federation entity.
“The CPT’s delegation received numerous allegations of physical and psychological ill-treatment – including of a severity which, in the CPT’s view, amount to torture (e.g. foot whipping, rape with a baton, mock execution with a gun) – of detained persons by law enforcement officials within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH),” it said.
“Allegations were also received of police officers having inflicted kicks, punches, slaps and blows with batons (as well as with non-standard objects such as baseball bats, wooden tiles and electrical cables) on detainees. The ill-treatment was apparently inflicted by crime inspectors with the intention of coercing suspects to confess, as well as by members of special intervention units at the time of the apprehension of criminal suspects,” it added.
The police in the cantons with headquarters in Sarajevo and Mostar were described as particularly brutal.
The report called for rigorous action to promote a change of culture in the Sarajevo and Herzegovina-Neretva Cantonal Police and FBiH Police, proposing the use of a system of audio and video recording of police interviews as well as guaranteeing that medical examinations of criminal suspects in police custody are both thorough and confidential.
The Council of Europe warned that investigations into alleged police ill-treatment are not effective, as they are neither carried out promptly nor thoroughly and the investigating body cannot be considered as impartial and independent.
It also criticized the conditions in the prisons in Sarajevo and Mostar, saying that inmates are offered “only 20 to 60 minutes of outdoor exercise per day in small, poorly-equipped courtyards.”