FACTSHEET

video-recording of police vans is an important safeguard
against ill-treatment. However, the SPT statement
also underlines that video-recording is only effective at
preventing torture if applied together with other preventive
measures, including independent complaint mechanisms
and adequate training for law enforcement officials.
A large variety of CCTV devices can be used for
monitoring purposes, including fixed cameras, rotating
cameras, zoom lenses etc. Some cameras record the
images while others merely transmit them to a monitor.
The type of system in place, the quality of devices and of
images, the number and location of cameras, whether or
not the images are recorded, and the management of the
data collected are all crucial aspects in determining the
usefulness and legitimacy of CCTV monitoring in a given
place. In this Factsheet, CCTV monitoring is understood
to include both fixed cameras filming targeted spots
and video- recording of police interrogations, including
cameras that are not permanently installed but brought
to the room for the occasion.

2.	What are the main standards?
Specific standards on the use of CCTV in places of
detention are scarce, but in view of the growing and
widespread use of video recording devices, they are
likely to be developed in the future. Interestingly, existing
standards only relate to video-recording of police
interrogations – a practice that was already in place in
various contexts long before the installation of CCTV
monitoring systems – and are silent about its use for any
other purposes.
The UN Committee against Torture (CAT), in its General
Comment No.2 on Article 2 of the Convention, stated
that ‘[a]s new methods of prevention (eg. videotaping
all interrogations […]) are discovered, tested and found
effective, article 2 provides authority to build upon the
remaining articles and to expand the scope of measures
required to prevent torture’.3
In his 2003 Annual Report to the General Assembly, the
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture also stressed that ‘all
interrogation sessions should be recorded and preferably
video-recorded, and the identify of all persons present
should be included in the records. Evidence from nonrecorded interrogations should be excluded from court
proceedings’.4

“

The electronic (i.e. audio and/or video)
recording of police interviews represents
an important additional safeguard

against the ill-treatment of detainees.
The CPT [European Committee for the
Prevention of Torture] is pleased to note
that the introduction of such systems
is under consideration in an increasing
number of countries. Such a facility can
provide a complete and authentic record
of the interview process, thereby greatly
facilitating the investigation of any
allegations of ill-treatment. This is in the
interest both of persons who have been illtreated by the police and of police officers
confronted with unfounded allegations that
they have engaged in physical ill-treatment
or psychological pressure. Electronic
recording of police interviews also reduces
the opportunity for defendants to later
falsely deny that they have made certain
admissions. 5

”

The CPT has also recommended the use of videorecording devices in the context of the use of Electrical
Discharge Weapons (EDW), ‘enabling the circumstances
surrounding their use to be recorded’.6

3. Risk situations and aspects to be
considered by monitoring bodies
3.1 Location and type of equipment
The location and type of equipment are important
aspects of any CCTV monitoring system. Even though a
place of detention may appear to be well monitored by
CCTV, it may in fact have poor equipment which does
not properly fulfil its function or video-cameras that are
poorly placed. Cleaning and maintaining the equipment
is also essential, as dirty or damaged cameras may
only provide the illusion of scrutiny and security. In
practical terms, it is also essential that when footage
is needed to ascertain facts, it is properly filed, labeled
and easy to locate. It is also essential that it is of good
quality. If monitoring bodies are told that footage is not
available because equipment was broken or the footage
poor, they should immediately raise this issue with the
authorities, as such situations jeopardise the preventive
effect of the use of cameras.
There are no standards that specify where there should
and should not be CCTV in a police station. Most
monitoring and standard-setting bodies agree that

3.	 Article 2 of the Convention against Torture: ‘1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts
of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. 2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political
instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. 3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not
be invoked as a justification of torture.’
4.	 Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, 17 December 2002, E/CN.4/2003/68, para. 26(g). See
also A/56/156, 3 July 2001, para. 34.
5.	 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) Standards, [CPT/Inf/E (2002) 1 – Rev. 2011], para. 36, p9.
6.	 CPT Standards, op. cit. para. 77 and para. 82.

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Penal Reform International | Video recording in police custody: Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment

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