European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) CPT/Inf(2018)4-part Complaints mechanisms Extract from the 27th General Report of the CPT, published in 2018 For the purpose of this section, the term “complaints” refers to all formal complaints lodged by, or sometimes on behalf of, persons deprived of their liberty against decisions, actions or lack of official action on a variety of issues, in particular: staff misconduct, inadequate protection from other persons deprived of liberty who may cause them harm, poor material conditions, lack of activities or insufficient provision of health care. “Complaints” qualify as such irrespective of the seriousness of the issues complained of and whether or not they could amount to ill-treatment. As is the case in several countries, the term “complaints” may include actions aimed at challenging decisions taken by the relevant complaints bodies. The right to complain or to challenge these decisions is often referred to as an “appeal”. At the same time, legal action aimed at challenging decisions on deprivation of liberty/placement is not covered in this section. Introduction 68. In the CPT’s view, complaints mechanisms constitute a fundamental safeguard against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment of persons deprived of their liberty by a public authority, regardless of the place or situation concerned (police stations, prisons, penal institutions for juveniles, immigration detention centres, psychiatric hospitals, social care homes, military detention facilities, forced return flights, etc.). Such mechanisms can not only allay tensions between persons deprived of their liberty and staff but also, by ensuring that complaints are taken seriously, contribute to building positive relationships. 69. However, on a number of occasions, the CPT has found that complaints mechanisms were either non-existent or displayed major shortcomings. These concerned in particular an insufficient legal basis, lack of, or inadequate, provision of information about complaints bodies or procedures, undue delays in initiating the examination/ investigation of complaints, lack of thoroughness in the examination/investigation of complaints, lack of independence or impartiality of the officials dealing with complaints, or insufficient protection against intimidation and reprisals. During its visits, the Committee has encountered many persons deprived of their liberty who were unaware that they had the possibility to complain, who had found it very difficult to make complaints or who had refrained from making a complaint out of fear of reprisals. Others lacked trust that their complaints would be considered credible and/or be examined in a fair manner.