According to the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Bulgarian prisons continue to be substandard, including Sofia Central Prison, where Jock Palfreeman is incarcerated.
In a report report released today the Committee criticises Bulgarian authorities for not doing enough to remedy this.
A summary of the report provided by the Council of Europe states that:
The Committee notes that the vast majority of its long-standing recommendations, some of them dating back to the very first periodic visit to Bulgaria in 1995, remain unimplemented, for example as regards ill-treatment (both in the police and prison context), inter-prisoner violence, prison overcrowding, material conditions of detention in investigation detention facilities (IDF) and prisons, prison health care, staffing levels, as well as discipline, segregation and contact with the outside world. The CPT is of the view that urgent and effective action must now be taken to address all these concerns.
Many allegations of deliberate physical ill-treatment of persons detained by the police (including juveniles and women) were received. In some isolated cases, they were of such a severity that they could amount to torture (e.g. truncheon blows on the soles of the feet, blows with truncheons inflicted to a person attached with handcuffs to hooks fixed to a door frame – and thus immobilised in a hyperextended position – and infliction of electric shocks using an electrical discharge weapon). In several cases, medical evidence supporting the allegations was found.
No improvements have been noted as to the practical implementation of the safeguards against police ill-treatment: persons in police custody are rarely put in a position to notify promptly their next-of-kin of their detention and hardly ever benefit from the presence and the services of a lawyer during the initial period of 24 hours of police custody.
Prison overcrowding remains a very serious problem despite a drop in the prison population since the last CPT visit in 2012. In addition, the 2014 visit confirmed the endemic problem of corruption… The Committee was very concerned that no measures have been taken to combat the phenomenon of inter-prisoner violence which was widespread at Sofia Prison and literally omnipresent at Burgas Prison.
The severe shortage in health-care staffing levels observed in all prisons visited rendered extremely difficult the provision of health care worthy of the name. The CPT has again called for a considerable reinforcement of the health-care teams at all the prisons visited.
The review of the situation of life-sentenced prisoners demonstrated that little had been done to improve their conditions in the light of the CPT’s long-standing recommendations. In addition, no progress had been made as regards the removal from the Criminal Code of the sentence of “life imprisonment without the right to substitution”.