European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Documenting and reporting
medical evidence of ill-treatment
Extract from the 23rd General Report of the CPT,
published in 2013
As from an early stage of its activities, the CPT has emphasised the important contribution
which health-care services in places of deprivation of liberty can and should make to combating illtreatment of detained persons, through the methodical recording of injuries and the provision of
information to the relevant authorities1. The accurate and timely documenting and reporting of such
medical evidence will greatly facilitate the investigation of cases of possible ill-treatment and the
holding of perpetrators to account, which in turn will act as a strong deterrent against the
commission of ill-treatment in the future.
The CPT has paid particular attention to the role to be played by prison health-care services
in relation to combating ill-treatment. Naturally, that role relates in part to possible ill-treatment of
detained persons during their imprisonment, whether it is inflicted by staff or by fellow inmates.
However, health-care services in establishments which constitute points of entry into the prison
system also have a crucial contribution to make as regards the prevention of ill-treatment during the
period immediately prior to imprisonment, namely when persons are in the custody of law
enforcement agencies (e.g. the police or gendarmerie).
As an attentive reader of CPT reports will know, the situation as regards the documenting
and reporting of medical evidence of ill-treatment is at present far from satisfactory in many States
visited by the Committee. The procedures in place do not always ensure that injuries borne by
detained persons will be recorded in good time; and even when injuries are recorded, this is often
done in a superficial manner. Moreover, there is frequently no guarantee that medical evidence
which is documented will then be reported to the relevant authorities.
Consequently, the Committee considered that it would be useful to set out in the following
paragraphs the standards which it has developed as regards the documenting and reporting of
medical evidence of ill-treatment. Various related issues are also discussed.
It is axiomatic that persons committed to prison should be properly interviewed and
physically examined by a health-care professional as soon as possible after their admission. The
CPT considers that the interview/examination should be carried out within 24 hours of admission.
This systematic medical screening of new arrivals is essential for various reasons; more specifically,
if performed properly, it will ensure that any injuries borne by the persons concerned – as well as
related allegations – are recorded without undue delay. The same procedure should be followed
See, for example, paragraphs 60 to 62 of the CPT’s 3rd General Report, CPT/Inf (93) 12.