European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Women deprived of their liberty
Extract from the 10th General Report of the CPT,
published in 2000
In certain of its previous general reports, the CPT has set out the criteria which guide its
work in a variety of places of detention, including police stations, prisons, holding centres for
immigration detainees, psychiatric establishments and detention centres for juveniles.
Naturally, the Committee applies the above-mentioned criteria in respect of both women and
men who are deprived of their liberty. However, in all Council of Europe member States, women
inmates represent a comparatively small minority of persons deprived of their liberty. This can
render it very costly for States to make separate provision for women in custody, with the result that
they are often held at a small number of locations (on occasion, far from their homes and those of
any dependent children), in premises which were originally designed for (and may be shared by)
male detainees. In these circumstances, particular care is required to ensure that women deprived of
their liberty are held in a safe and decent custodial environment.
In order to highlight the importance which it attaches to the prevention of ill-treatment of
women deprived of their liberty, the CPT has chosen to devote this chapter of its 10th General
Report to describing some of the specific issues which it pursues in this area. The Committee hopes
in this way to give a clear indication to national authorities of its views regarding the manner in
which women deprived of their liberty ought to be treated. As in previous years, the CPT would
welcome comments on this substantive section of its General Report.
It should be stressed at the outset that the CPT's concerns about the issues identified in this
chapter apply irrespective of the nature of the place of detention. Nevertheless, in the CPT’s
experience, risks to the physical and/or psychological integrity of women deprived of their liberty
may be greater during the period immediately following apprehension. Consequently, particular
attention should be paid to ensuring that the criteria enunciated in the following sections are
respected during that phase.
The Committee also wishes to emphasise that any standards which it may be developing in
this area should be seen as being complementary to those set out in other international instruments,
including the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights
of the Child, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women and the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under
Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.