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Council of Europe: Committee for the Prevention of Torture warns against impact of austerity measures on prison conditions

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has issued a set of minimum requirements for conditions of detention in European prisons, concerned by the negative effects of pre-existing austerity measures in certain states, which could be exacerbated by possible deeper budgetary restrictions due to the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its annual report for 2020, the CPT recalls that in many of its visits over the years, it has found a failure to meet the basic needs of prisoners in certain establishments, which could lead to situations in which prisoners are exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment. The annual report recalls that on 20 March 2020, the CPT was the first Council of Europe body to issue substantive guidance to members states on the pandemic: the Statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, which was made available to member states in 26 languages.

In 2021, the CPT has already carried out periodic visits to Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey and is planning to visit Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and the United Kingdom. During its visits, the CPT has increasingly found significant cuts have affected detainees’ quality of living, concerning issues such as food, heating, the activities' regime, access to work and time outside cells.