FACTSHEET Detention Monitoring Tool  Second edition Body searches Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment ‘We are strip searched after every visit. We are naked, told to bend over, touch our toes, spread our cheeks. If we’ve got our period we have to take the tampon out in front of them. It’s degrading and humiliating. When we do urines it’s even worse, we piss in a bottle in front of them. If we can’t or won’t we lose visits for three weeks.’ Prisoner from Fairlea Prison, Australia1 1. Definition and context In prisons, body searches may constitute necessary security measures to prevent the entry and contraband of dangerous (such as weapons) or prohibited items (such as drugs and objects that could be used for escape attempts, or cell phones in some contexts). However, owing to their intrusive nature, body searches are an infringement of a person’s privacy and should therefore only be resorted to when strictly necessary and in a manner that respects the detainee’s dignity. The term ‘body searches’ covers three different types of searches: • Pat-down or frisk searches are searches performed over the clothed body. These searches therefore include physical contact between the prisoner and staff member but no nudity. • Strip searches refer to the removal of some or all of a person’s clothing in order to permit a visual inspection of all parts of the body, without physical contact. Procedures may vary but prisoners are usually required to take off their clothes and to provide an unobstructed view of possible hiding places. They may be asked to open their mouth, and to bend and cough. Men may be asked to lift their penis and testicles, while women may have to spread their legs for inspection of the genital area. • Body-cavity searches (or invasive or intimate searches) are a physical examination of body orifices (such as vagina or anus). This type of search includes rectal and pelvic examination, and is physically and psychologically the most intrusive method. All types of body search can be intimidating and degrading, and the more intrusive the method, the stronger the feeling of invasion will be. The psychological effect and the violation of the right to dignity can be exacerbated for detainees from particular religious or cultural backgrounds as well as for detainees in situations of vulnerability. Body searches represent a high-risk situation for abuse, ill-treatment or even torture, and may also be misused to intimidate, harass, retaliate or discriminate. Therefore body searches should be resorted to only when strictly necessary to ensure the security of staff and detainees, and they should be conducted in a manner that respects the dignity of the person. Body searches need to be regulated by law and clear policies and guidelines need to be put in place to explicitly define the conditions and modalities of their use. Alternatives, such as electronic scanning devices, should be developed and used wherever possible and when body searches are unavoidable, the least invasive method should be applied. Records should be kept to ensure accountability. Body searches may also be performed on visitors, including professional visitors such as social workers, and on staff themselves. 2. What are the main standards? When conducting body searches, staff in detention facilities have to respect the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment,2 as well as the right of all persons deprived of their liberty to be ‘treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person’ (Article 10, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, see also Rule 1 of the 1. George A, ‘Strip searches: sexual assault by the state’, in Without consent: confronting adult sexual violence, Australian Institute of Criminology, 1993, p211. 2. These include Article 5 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture. Penal Reform International | Body searches: Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment |1

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