The report published on Tuesday by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, CPT, based on a visit to the country in December 2019, raises concerns that police ill-treatment of suspects has resumed in North Macedonia and that the authorities have done far too little to address the longstanding shortcomings within the prison system.
“The CPT’s delegation received many allegations of physical ill-treatment of criminal suspects by police officers during the 2019 visit. Persons complained of being subjected to slaps, punches, kicks and blows with truncheons and other objects at the time of their apprehension or inside a police establishment for the purpose of extracting a confession,” the report said.
The CPT recommends holding to account senior officers for their and their subordinates’ misdeeds, as well as stronger investigations for mistreatment and better training for officers.
It also notes that the safeguards such as access to a lawyer must be applied from the moment a person is detained, and that investigations into allegations of ill-treatment must be made more effective.
The report is particularly critical of the poor situation in prisons and detention facilities, noting that the authorities have persistently failed to address these longstanding problems.
“Immediate action is required to address the lack of a professional approach in managing complex situations within the prison system, the poor management and performance of staff, the low staffing levels, the poor quality of health-care provided to inmates, the lack of an appropriate regime on offer to inmates, the high-levels of inter-prisoner violence, the squalid material conditions and the endemic corruption of staff,” the report says.
The CPT notes that the problems are most acute in the country’s largest prison, Idrizovo near Skopje, which holds some 60 per cent of the country’s entire prison population. It describes “inhumane and degrading conditions” in the prison’s accommodation areas.
Police misconduct and brutality as well as bad conditions in prisons have long been a problematic topic for North Macedonia, with various EU and US reports over the past 20 years pinpointing the necessity for change.
Criticism was particularly strong when authoritarian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who was ousted in 2017, was in power.
The CPT report also includes an attached 32-page response from the current Social Democrats-led government which said it is working on improving many things noted in this and previous reports, including closing down problematic parts of the Idrizovo prison and renovating facilities there and in other prisons elsewhere in the country.