safeguards for vulnerable groups, such as juveniles, persons with mental health problems or foreign
The CPT has noted with satisfaction that many states have followed its recommendations by
incorporating procedural safeguards into their legislation. Nevertheless, the Committee has also
found that, despite the existence of detailed legal provisions, the practical implementation of these
safeguards frequently displays serious shortcomings. For instance, the Committee has observed
undue delays in access to a lawyer (in particular, it is often the case that legal aid lawyers see their
clients only after a first police interview or even not until the time of the first court hearing, thereby
depriving the detained persons concerned of an important safeguard against police ill-treatment). In
addition, medical examinations of persons in police custody are often carried out in a superficial
manner and/or in the presence of police officers. Further, in a few countries, the introduction of
procedural safeguards has led to the emergence of unwanted police practices, such as the
questioning of suspects in unofficial places of detention, without the very fact of their deprivation of
liberty being recorded and/or without any possibility of them being able to exercise any of the
above-mentioned rights.
The introduction of legal safeguards is thus not an end in itself; experience has shown that in
practice they can be circumvented as long as police officers – with the sanction of senior police
officials – believe that ill-treating apprehended persons and suspects is an acceptable or even
necessary and efficient way of carrying out police activities.
Practitioners in countries that have come a long way in overcoming police ill-treatment
often refer to a change of police culture, or even a change of culture within the criminal justice
system as a whole, as the key factor. In a number of states, the CPT is indeed pleased to witness
positive developments in the manner in which persons in police custody are treated. It has even
observed and supported significant culture changes within police services, such as in Georgia.
A change of mindset starts with competitive and rigorous recruitment processes based on
strict selection criteria, ensuring that the composition of the police force reflects the diversity of the
population.5 In this connection, adequate remuneration of police officers is an important tool to
attract the best candidates and retain highly competent staff. The development of appropriate police
education, initial preparation and ongoing training in the application of human rights standards,
national norms and safeguards are also key to improving police practices. In the CPT’s experience,
professional policing goes hand-in-hand with adequate training on the use of force in compliance
with the principles of lawfulness, necessity and proportionality. Training should also provide
opportunities to acquire appropriate investigative skills, taking due account of the age, gender, state
of health, any disability or any other circumstances which may render certain persons under
investigation particularly vulnerable. Moreover, no significant change can be expected without
strong police leadership and management which scrupulously supervise the observance of
procedural safeguards and convey firm and unambiguous messages of zero tolerance of police illtreatment. Greater police accountability is indeed a crucial factor. Police officers should always be
identifiable6 and clear reporting procedures and “whistle-blower” protective measures should be put
in place. Any allegation or other information indicative of police ill-treatment should be effectively
investigated and any perpetrators of police ill-treatment be brought to justice.7

See substantive sections of previous general reports of the CPT on police issues: CPT/Inf (92) 3, paragraphs 36 ff.,
CPT/Inf (2002) 15, paragraphs 34 ff., and CPT/Inf (2015) 1, paragraph 98.
See in particular General Policy Recommendation No. 11 of the European Commission against Racism and
Intolerance (ECRI) on combating racism and racial discrimination in policing.
For instance, members of specialised police forces and uniformed police officers should always wear a clearly
distinctive insignia and a prominent identification number on the outside of their uniform/on their helmet.
See, in this respect, the 14th General Report of the CPT: CPT/Inf (2004)28, paragraphs 25 ff.

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