DETENTION MONITORING TOOL FACTSHEET Ed.1 Incident management and independent investigations Addressing risk factors to prevent torture and ill-treatment Where the events in issue lie wholly, or in large part, within the exclusive knowledge of the authorities, as in the case of persons within their control in detention, strong presumptions of fact will arise in respect of injuries and death occurring during that detention. Indeed, the burden of proof [in such cases] may be regarded as resting on the authorities to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation.1 (European Court of Human Rights) 1. Introduction and context Deaths or serious injuries of persons in custody, disappearances of individuals, and allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by detainees or indications that a detainee might have been subjected to ill-treatment can be summarised as ‘serious incidents’ in custody,2 which can have a variety of different causes. While this factsheet focuses on prisons, some of the guidance is equally applicable for monitoring bodies in addressing serious incidents in other detention settings, such as police custody and immigration detention facilities. A prisoner can die from so-called ‘natural causes’ such as illness or old age. There can also be deaths or serious injuries due to suicide or suicide attempts, prison staff violence (including torture), sexual abuse (including rape), inter-prisoner violence, legitimate or excessive use of force by prison staff, self-harm, inadequate medical care, drug overdoses, or sports or work-related accidents. Deaths or serious injuries in custody can therefore occur due to accidents, for which nobody bears any responsibility, or on the other hand they can be due to negligence or lack of care, or they can be directly caused by another person, including prison staff. All these serious incidents could constitute a violation of one or more of the most fundamental human rights, in particular the right to life and the prohibition ” of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, as well as the right not to be arbitrarily detained. There is therefore a responsibility on the State to account for any death, injury or disappearance of persons it detains, regardless of how the incident occurred. International standards consequently require that each serious incident in custody triggers and is followed up by a number of measures, with the aim of clarifying the facts and establishing, where applicable, State and/ or individual responsibility for the harm suffered, and to prevent as far as possible such incidents in the future. The credibility of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment is undermined each time officials responsible for such offences are not held to account for their actions. If the emergence of information indicative of ill-treatment is not followed by a prompt and effective response, those minded to ill-treat persons deprived of their liberty will quickly come to believe – and with very good reason – that they can do so with impunity.3 ” European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment |1

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