European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment


Preventing police torture
and other forms of ill-treatment
– reflections on good practices
and emerging approaches
Extract from the 28th General Report of the CPT,
published in 2019

In the course of the last three decades, the CPT has regularly reviewed the manner in which
persons are treated by the police in European countries.1 It is therefore in a unique position to assess
the extent of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by police officers in the whole Council of
Europe area.
At the outset, it must be underlined that, in the overwhelming majority of Council of Europe
member states, most persons met by CPT visiting delegations who were, or had recently been, in
police custody have not alleged to have suffered any kind of police abuse. Indeed, they considered
that they had been treated correctly by the police officers who had apprehended them, escorted them
to police establishments, kept them in custody, or interviewed them. Further, it is noteworthy that,
in a few countries, police ill-treatment has not been a concern since the CPT started carrying out
visits in the early 1990s. In some other states, police reforms have led to significant improvements.
At the same time, the CPT continues to encounter cases of police ill-treatment in a number
of European countries, under various circumstances and involving different law enforcement
In several Council of Europe member states, police ill-treatment mainly occurs during the
high-risk period around the time of apprehension of persons suspected of having committed
criminal or other offences. CPT delegations have heard many accounts according to which the force
used by police officers upon apprehension or shortly after was unnecessary or excessive. In
particular, they heard allegations of punches, kicks, truncheon blows or use of pepper spray whilst
the person concerned displayed no resistance or had already been brought under control. At times,
such allegations were supported by convincing medical or other evidence. In some instances, the
alleged misconduct was the result of action during crowd control operations or special interventions
carried out by police officers who could subsequently not be identified (due to them wearing faceconcealing hoods and the absence of any identification number on their uniforms). As highlighted

Since its first visit in 1990, the CPT has carried out about 440 country visits, in the course of which the members of its
delegations have spoken in private with tens of thousands of persons who were or had recently been detained by the
police. It also reviewed the relevant documentation, including of a medical nature, in police and prison establishments.

Select target paragraph3