–2–
by the European Court of Human Rights in its case-law, it may be legitimate for police officers to
resort to force in the context of an apprehension. However, such force should be used only if it is
lawful and strictly necessary, and it should not be excessive. Failure to meet these basic
requirements may amount to a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human
Rights.2 It should also be noted that CPT delegations have frequently found evidence of unduly
tight handcuffing, which can have serious medical consequences. In addition, on many occasions
they have heard allegations of verbal abuse, including racist remarks. The CPT has also observed
that certain categories of person (such as persons with mental health problems and juveniles) could
run a higher risk of ill-treatment during apprehension due to their specific vulnerabilities.
65.
The infliction of ill-treatment during or in the context of police interviews remains a very
serious problem in a significant number of Council of Europe member states. Within the last ten
years, the CPT has received credible allegations, and gathered forensic medical and other evidence,
of police ill-treatment which could be qualified as torture in almost one-third of Council of Europe
member states. The alleged ill-treatment consisted inter alia of the infliction of electric shocks,
blows to the soles of the feet, suspension or hyperextension by means of handcuffs, infliction of
burns to various parts of the body, asphyxiation with a plastic bag or a gas mask, handcuffing of
detained persons in stress positions for hours on end, severe beatings and mock executions. The
CPT also continues to hear accounts of other forms of police ill-treatment, from slaps to more brutal
forms of abuse. The deliberate nature of such treatment is evident. The treatment alleged was often
applied by apprehending/operational officers in the initial period of custody and prior to a first
formal police interview, for the purpose of obtaining a confession or other information. The CPT’s
findings suggest that, in some cases, police crime investigators have condoned or even encouraged
such practices. In this connection, the possibility for police officers of inviting or summoning
persons for “informal talks”, “collecting information” or “explanations” is provided for in a number
of countries under a simplified procedure. The CPT has on numerous occasions noted that the risk
of ill-treatment was higher precisely in situations of this kind and that informal questioning of
“persons of interest” was abused in order, inter alia, to deny procedural safeguards that would apply
to persons formally considered as criminal suspects.

Professional policing
66.
As part of its preventive mandate, the CPT has consistently highlighted the importance of
three procedural safeguards, namely: the right of access to a lawyer, the right of access to a
doctor and the right to have the fact of one’s detention notified to a relative or another third party of
one’s choice. This presupposes that persons deprived of their liberty are duly informed of these
rights, both orally upon apprehension and, as soon as possible, in writing (e.g. through a “letter of
rights” or other document setting out the rights of persons in police custody) in a language they
understand.3 This “trinity of rights” should apply as from the very outset of deprivation of liberty by
the police – that is, when the person concerned is obliged to remain with the police. The main
reason for this has repeatedly emerged from the CPT’s findings: it is during the first hours of
deprivation of liberty by the police that the risk of ill-treatment is at its highest.
67.
The CPT has progressively developed additional safeguards (such as appropriate recordkeeping and the establishment of a single comprehensive custody register), as well as other specific
2

Reference can be made, for instance, to the judgments Bouyid v. Belgium [GC], no. 23380/09, §§ 100-113, ECHR
2015, Rehbock v. Slovenia, no. 29462/95, §§ 71-78, ECHR 2000-XII, and Layijov v. Azerbaijan, no. 22062/07, §§ 3948, 10 April 2014.
3
See also Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2012 on the right to
information in criminal proceedings, and Directive 2013/48/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22
October 2013 on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings,
and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and
with consular authorities while deprived of liberty.

Select target paragraph3