The CoE Committee for the Prevention of Torture publishes a report on Azerbaijan for the first time since 2002
(26/11-2009) Today, the CoE Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) publishes the report of its ad hoc visit to Azerbaijan in December 2008. Even though visits were conducted also in 2004, 2005 and 2006 the Government of Azerbaijan has not agreed to publish any of the reports since 2002. The delegation visited several places of detention as well as hospitals and psychiatric institutions and received several credible allegations from prisoners of deliberate physical ill-treatment and excessive use of force by prison officers. The delegation also revealed insufficient health care systems, overcrowding and excessive use on confinement of prisoners to the cell. Although some improvements to the physical conditions of places of detention was observed, the conditions in non-refurbished ward remains poor.
During the visit, the CPT’s delegation reviewed the situation at Gobustan Prison (previously visited by the CPT in 2005 and 2006). The delegation received several credible allegations from life-sentenced prisoners of deliberate physical ill-treatment and excessive use of force by prison officers. In their response, the Azerbaijani authorities indicate that staff at Gobustan Prison have been instructed to apply physical force and special means only in exceptional circumstances determined by law.
In the units for lifers, the delegation observed some improvements to material conditions. However, life-sentenced prisoners continued to spend 23 hours a day locked up in their cells, without being offered any form of organised activity. The CPT has called upon the Azerbaijani authorities to take steps to devise and implement a comprehensive regime of out-of-cell activities for life-sentenced prisoners. Further, the Committee has stressed once again that it can see no justification for keeping life-sentenced prisoners apart from other prisoners. The authorities’ response makes reference to plans to set up workshops and sports facilities at Gobustan Prison, as well as to enable inmates to receive education.
During the 2008 visit, the CPT’s delegation also carried out a visit to the Central Penitentiary Hospital in Baku. It found that nursing staff resources were insufficient and that no health-care staff were present in the wards after 4 p.m. Further, the delegation gained the impression that the treatment provided at the hospital’s internal diseases, narcology and psychiatry wards left a lot to be desired. The CPT has recommended that a thorough assessment of the hospital’s health-care services be carried out. The authorities’ response refers to various training courses for health-care staff of the hospital and the involvement of experts from the Ministry of Health in the treatment of prisoners.
At the Republican Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Mashtaga, the CPT’s delegation heard a number of allegations from patients of occasional physical ill-treatment, mostly by orderlies and occasionally by nurses. Living conditions in the wards which had already been refurbished were on the whole acceptable, but conditions in the non-refurbished wards were very poor. The worst situation was observed in Ward 12, conditions in the ward’s two isolation rooms being particularly bad. According to the authorities’ response, a refurbishment of Ward 12 has been launched and the isolation rooms have been abolished.
As regards the Regional Psycho-Neurological Dispensary in Sheki (previously visited by the CPT in 2006), the delegation observed a number of positive changes. That said, the dormitories remained overcrowded, dilapidated and impersonal, and lacked privacy. The response refers to a decision to move the dispensary to a new hospital to be built in Sheki region.
More generally, the CPT has recommended that steps be taken at psychiatric establishments to adopt a policy on the use of means of restraint, and that the recording of information on the use of means of restraint be improved. Other recommendations made by the Committee concern the legal safeguards in the context of involuntary hospitalisation and the setting up of a system for regular visits to psychiatric establishments by independent outside bodies responsible for the inspection of patients’ care.