The European Committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment (CPT) was set up under the 1987 Council of Europe Convention of the same name (hereinafter "the
Convention"). According to Article 1 of the Convention:
"There shall be established a European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment..... The Committee shall, by means of visits, examine the
treatment of persons deprived of their liberty with a view to strengthening, if necessary, the protection
of such persons from torture and from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
The work of the CPT is designed to be an integrated part of the Council of Europe system for the
protection of human rights, placing a proactive non-judicial mechanism alongside the existing reactive judicial
mechanisms of the European Commission and European Court of Human Rights.
The CPT implements its essentially preventive function through two kinds of visits - periodic and ad
hoc. Periodic visits are carried out to all Parties to the Convention on a regular basis. Ad hoc visits are
organised in these States when they appear to the Committee "to be required in the circumstances".
When carrying out a visit, the CPT enjoys extensive powers under the Convention: access to the
territory of the State concerned and the right to travel without restriction; unlimited access to any place where
people are deprived of their liberty, including the right to move inside such places without restriction; access to
full information on places where people deprived of their liberty are being held, as well as to other information
available to the State which is necessary for the Committee to carry out its task.
The Committee is also entitled to interview in private persons deprived of their liberty and to
communicate freely with anyone whom it believes can supply relevant information.
Visits may be carried out to any place "where persons are deprived of their liberty by a public
authority". The CPT's mandate thus extends beyond prisons and police stations to encompass psychiatric
institutions, detention areas at military barracks, holding centres for asylum seekers or other categories of
foreigners, and places in which young persons may be deprived of their liberty by judicial or administrative
Two fundamental principles govern relations between the CPT and the Parties to the Convention - cooperation and confidentiality. In this respect, it should be emphasised that the role of the Committee is not to
condemn States, but rather to assist them to prevent the ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty.
After each visit, the CPT draws up a report which sets out its findings and includes, if necessary,
recommendations and other advice, on the basis of which a dialogue is developed with the State concerned. The
Committee's visit report is, in principle, confidential; however, almost all States have chosen to waive the rule
of confidentiality and publish the report.

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