22 In its General Comment No 2 the Committee has acknowledged the relevance of a number of ‘basic guarantees applicable to all persons deprived of liberty’.48 Before analysing the Committee’s recommendations on each of these safeguards, it should be remembered that fundamental legal safeguards from early stages of custody are considered as the key and most effective factors in the prevention of torture.49 As torture and other (p. 325) forms of ill-treatment are likely to occur during the first hours of deprivation of liberty or interrogation, all key fundamental legal safeguards are to be granted from the very outset of a person’s deprivation of liberty. In fact, for the Committee ‘it is precisely while they cannot communicate with their families and lawyers that suspects are most vulnerable to torture’.50 Legal safeguards should then remain guaranteed throughout all stages of proceedings and all moments of deprivation of liberty.51
23 It is similarly worth noting that a precondition for the application of all safeguards that will be mentioned below is that all unofficial places of detention or interrogation are outlawed and no-one is detained in secret or unofficial facilities under the de facto control of the State party. According to the Committee, in fact, unofficial places of detention should be closed, as detaining individuals in such facilities is per se a breach of the Convention.52 As also put by the ECtHR ‘unacknowledged detention of an individual is a “complete negation” of the guarantees against the deprivation of liberty and security of the person’.53
25 The Committee has also called upon States parties to review their detention regime with a view to abolishing incommunicado detention,54 referred to as ‘a practice that is conducive to torture and enforced disappearances’.55 Although it has never given a detailed definition of incommunicado detention,56 the Committee seems to understand incommunicado detention as the practice of denying the persons deprived of liberty contacts with the outside world, including with his/her lawyer, doctors, family members, or other third persons. All persons held incommunicado should be released or charged and given a fair trial in accordance with due process.57
26 With regard to specific safeguards, the Committee considered that persons deprived of their liberty should be fully informed of the charges against them and about their rights in a language they understand, and receive language assistance such as translation and interpretation.58
27 Another key legal safeguard for persons deprived of liberty is the right to promptly contact a family member or any other person of their choice to notify them of the circumstances of their arrest and the place where they are being held, and their appearance before a judge.59 In this regard, the Committee has recommended that any official that fails to allow notification of relatives promptly should be disciplined or sanctioned.60
(p. 326) 28 The Committee has similarly stressed the right to remain silent61 and the importance of prompt access to a qualified and independent lawyer.62 Despite not expressly defining what prompt access means,63 the Committee has specified that access should be promptly given from the moment of deprivation of liberty and especially during the interrogation, investigation, and questioning process.64 It condemned the practices of certain States to postpone access to a lawyer for up to six days65 or a maximum of seventy-two hours in cases involving terrorism or organized crime,66 arguing that this puts suspects held in custody at greater risk of torture. The Committee also noted that the right to be assisted by a lawyer must be funded at the State’s expense, if necessary.67 In this respect an independent free legal aid system for detainees should be established and rigorously adhered to.68 Moreover, in line with the revised Mandela Rules now recognizing the right to legal representation ‘in any legal matter’,69 the Committee recommended to guarantee access to legal representation and legal aid to all persons deprived of liberty, including during first instance administrative level of the asylum process.70 It also highlighted that interpretation needs to be granted, when necessary.71 States must also ensure the full confidentiality of client–lawyer meetings as well as communications via telephone and correspondence.72 Appropriate premises should be made available where interviews between the accused and their counsel can take place within sight (but not within earshot) of a police officer or official of the establishment concerned.73
29 Equally important is the right to have immediate access to a qualified and independent medical doctor.74 In its concluding observations to Liechtenstein, the Committee indicated that all persons arriving in a penitentiary institution should be examined by an (p. 327) independent medical doctor within 24 hours of arrival. 75,76 Patient–doctor confidentiality during such medical examinations should be granted, and police officers should not be present during medical examinations of persons in police custody. This is in order to guarantee the confidentiality of medical information, save under exceptional and justifiable circumstances (ie, risk of physical aggression).77 Access to a doctor must not only be guaranteed immediately following arrest,78 but additionally at regular intervals thereafter and in particular before release.79
30 Further the Committee noted that any person deprived of liberty should be brought before a judge as soon as possible following the arrest and not later than forty-eight hours.80 Concerns were shown about certain national legislation allowing that this period be delayed in relation to persons accused of security-related offences or under a state of emergency.81 This long time frame is excessive and may leave room for acts of torture by the security forces.
31 In line with what is provided by other international instruments,82 all persons deprived of liberty have the right to have their detention recorded in a register.83 States parties have to take appropriate measures to establish a standardized, computerized, and centralized officials registers in which arrests are ‘immediately and scrupulously recorded’.84 Registers must be kept at all stages of deprivation of liberty.85 In particular, officials register should include the exact date, time, and place of detention of all persons deprived of their liberty. Most importantly ‘the time of de facto apprehension is accurately recorded to ensure that the first unrecorded hours of unacknowledged detention between the arrest and delivery to a police station cannot be used by law enforcement officials to obtain confessions by means of torture’.86 In other words, registration is to be done promptly after the moment of apprehension and not only upon formal arrest or charging.87 The prisoner’s file management should be kept regularly up to date.88 As a minimum, registers (p. 328) should contain ‘information on the identity of the detainee, date, time and place of the detention, the identity of the authority that detained the person, grounds for the detention, date and time of admission to the detention facility, state of health of the detainee upon admission and any changes thereto, time and place of interrogations, with names of all interrogators present, as well as the date and time of release or transfer to another detention facility’.89 Registers should document the use of restraints, including the reasons for use, duration of use, and particular method of restraint used,90 and contain information on interrogations.91 Registers should be accessible by lawyers and relatives of those detained.92 As detailed below, recording of interrogations should take the form of audio-videotaping of interrogations. The Committee has further recommended States to ‘carry out monitoring and inspections on a systematic basis in order to ensure fulfilment of the obligation to duly record the information regarding each arrest that is outlined in the Body of Principles’.93 All obligations concerning the prisoners file management needs to respect the principle of non-discrimination.94
32 The Committee has also set specific standards of review with regard to the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment, eg relating to the conditions of detention and, in particular, disciplinary sanctions and other restrictions. With this regard, both the HRC and the CAT Committee referred to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as the most important non-binding standard relevant for the interpretation of Article 10 CCPR and Article 11 CAT.95 The revision of the Mandela Rules, concluded in December 2015, further consolidated them as a key reference point.96 During such revision, the Committee submitted general observations on the Rules,97 thereby clarifying its position on some crucial aspects concerning Article 11 and complementing its previous jurisprudence and practice.
33 Lack of ventilation, poor sanitary conditions, repeated measures of prolonged isolation, holding suspects incommunicado, frequent transfers from one prison to another, the mixing of women and men, juveniles and adults, convicted prisoners and pre-trial detainees could lead to inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of Article 10 CCPR and/or Articles 16 and 11 CAT.98 If the issue of detention conditions is examined in details under Article 16 in this Commentary, for the purpose of this Article it is particularly interesting to illustrate it in its relation with Article 11. As mentioned above, the Committee has in certain instances found a violation of Article 16 in conjunction with Article 11.99 In these decisions, a reference was made to overcrowding and size of cells; access to light, food, or water; access to a medical doctor; and more generally to ‘insanitary conditions’. More generally, in all cases the Committee found the State to be responsible under Article 11 due to the absence of a monitoring mechanism.
(p. 329) 34 In the reporting procedure, in order to reduce the prison population and avoid overcrowding, the Committee stressed the need to increase the use of non-custodial measures in conformity with the Tokyo Rules,100 and urged States to reduce the use and the length of pre-trial detention. To this extent, it has recommended to accelerate proceedings and ensure that pre-trial detention is regulated clearly and is subject to judicial supervision, as well as that redress and compensation are provided to victims of unjustified prolonged pre-trial detention.101
35 The Committee has also addressed other issues, eg the separation of different groups of detainees. Unlike other international instruments, the Convention does not expressly provide for it.102 Yet, departing from the obligation to review policies and procedures for the custody and treatment of detainees, it has consistently recommended States to ensure a strict separation of men and women, remand and convicted prisoners,103 as well as—in all circumstances—persons under eighteen years of age and adults.104 In addition, with a view to prevent sexual violence in detention detainees should be guarded by officers of the same gender.105 Separating the different categories of prisoners makes it easier for the State authorities to meet the detainees’ needs, protect their human dignity, and more generally prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment, sexual violence, or harassment.106
36 Restrictions or disciplinary sanctions should never amount to torture or other forms of ill treatment.107 They are nevertheless permitted under certain limited conditions, ie if imposed in line with the principles of legality, proportionality, and necessity.
37 With regard to body searches,108 the Committee has recommended that searches to both visitors and detained persons should be duly regulated109 and conducted only when strictly necessary and proportionate to the intended objective by trained personnel. Searches should be conducted in private, and in a way that is the least intrusive and most respectful of the individual dignity and integrity. Whenever possible, States should use alternatives, such as electronic detection scanning methods. Similarly, the Committee recommended States Parties to ensure strict supervision, and training of the personnel conducting the searches. In practice, a key factor taken into account by the Committee when considering searches seems to be the frequency. Often concerns was expressed by the (p. 330) Committee for the ‘frequent’, ‘systematic’, ‘widespread’, ‘routine’ use of body searches.110 Similarly, in relation to France, the Committee showed concerns for the ‘intrusive and humiliating nature’ of body searches, especially internal, and regretted that the procedures regulating the frequency and methods of searches in prisons and detention centres were determined by the prison authorities themselves.111
38 The Committee has consistently urged States Parties to review interrogation and detention rules to ensure that solitary confinement112 is applied only in exceptional circumstances as a last resort measure and for the shortest time possible.113 Indefinite solitary confinement is considered prohibited, as it is the practice of renewing the measure with the imposition of subsequent periods of solitary confinement.114 In this regard, it is useful to also refer to the revised Mandela Rules, which define it as the ‘confinement of a prisoner for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact’, and prolonged solitary confinement for ‘period in excess of 15 consecutive days’.115 The Committee further expressed concerns for Prison Rules imposing solitary confinement on ‘vague grounds’,116 and recommended to establish ‘clear and specific criteria’ for decisions on isolation.117 In contrast, it recommended States to consider the findings of the SRT Mendez who urged States to prohibit the imposition of solitary confinement as a form of punishment, either as a part of a judicially imposed sentence or a disciplinary measure.118 Offences committed by a detainee requiring more severe sanctions should, in fact, be addressed within the criminal law system.119 In line with other international standards,120 in the Committee’s view, solitary confinement should not be applied for certain categories of detainees, including for example asylum seekers,121 persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers,122 (p. 331) and juveniles.123 Solitary confinement should be equally prohibited for life-sentenced prisoners or prisoners sentenced to death, and for pre-trial detainees.124 In any event, if imposed, States Parties should ensure strict supervision and judicial review.125 This, for example, includes that the detainee’s physical and mental condition is regularly monitored by qualified medical personnel throughout the period of solitary confinement, and that such medical records are made accessible to the detainees and their legal counsel.126 The Committee has equally urged States to increase the level of psychologically meaningful social contact for detainees while in solitary confinement.127 As to the layout of places of detention, the Committee in November 1993 called on Turkish authorities to demolish immediately and systematically all the solitary confinement cells known as ‘coffins’ which in themselves were found to constitute a form of torture. These cells measure approximately sixty to eighty centimetres, have no light and inadequate ventilation, and the inmate can only stand or crouch.128
39 In its observations on the revision of the Mandela Rules, the Committee has similarly stated to reject other disciplinary punishments, including severe punishment on prisoners serving life sentences, such as routine handcuffing when outside cells, and segregation.129
40 Restraints measures, too, should be strictly regulated and applied only in exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, and for the shortest possible time.130 This means that no systematic or excessively frequent use of restraints is permitted.131 To be lawful, they must respect the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. They should be regulated in line with international standards,132 and be used only when less intrusive alternative measures have failed.133 In practice, the Committee has often expressed its concerns for the use of certain instruments of restraints in prison settings. It has, for example, recommended abolishing the routine handcuffing of prisoners serving life sentencing;134 and the minimization of the use of physical restraints with a view to abandoning it.135 Recommendations were also made regarding the use of restraints in the context of arrest,136 interrogation,137 pre-trial detention,138 forced returns,139 and in the context of psychiatric facilities.140 In this last regard, the Committee expressed concerns on the ‘use of restraint and forced administration of intrusive and irreversive treatments such as neuroleptic drugs’.141
(p. 332) 41 The Committee has also put forward recommendations on the use of force. In contexts concerning deprivation of liberty, the Committee noted that use of force should be in line with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. States should further ensure that law enforcement officers receive training on the absolute prohibition of torture and more specifically on the Basic Principles.142 More specific recommendations were given by the Committee on the use of electrical discharge weapon. In this regard, it was clarified that their use should be limited to extreme situations, where there is an immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury, as a substitute of lethal weapons (eg firearms).143 Electrical discharge weapons should not be included in the regular equipment of custodial staff in prisons or any other place of deprivation of liberty,144 and stringent and detailed instructions should be provided to law enforcement personnel authorized to use electric discharge weapons.145 Hence, according to the Committee their use is to be permitted only in strict compliance with principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. The Committee has further clarified the need of close monitoring and supervision through recording, mandatory reporting, and review of each use.146 Moreover, all complaints of violations with regard to restraints should be promptly, effectively, and independently investigated and the persons responsible held to account (see also Article 12, below).147
42 The Committee seems to distinguish electrically discharged weapons from direct contact body-worn electric shock devices. For example, in its 2000 observation to the United States the Committee urged the State to the abolition of ‘electro-shock stun belts and restraint chairs as methods of restraining those in custody’,148 as ‘their use almost invariably leads to breaches of article 16 of the Convention’.149 In its subsequent concluding observations to Macao, however, pronouncing itself on the use of contact body-worn electric shock devices during transfers, the Committee expressed the view that ‘body-worn electric shock devices should be subject to the principle of necessity and proportionality …’.150
43 Invoking Article 11, the Committee also made recommendations on personnel, including medical staff.151 Besides reinforcing training programmes specifically concerning the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, for the analyses of which the reader is remanded to Article 10 above, the Committee has recommended to increase the number of qualified personnel also in order to prevent incidents, such as death in custody and suicides, as well as inter-prisoner violence.152 Moreover, it further recommended that all penitentiary personnel, as well as special forces, be equipped with visible identification badges at all times to ensure the protection of inmates from acts in violation of the Convention.153