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Procedure : 2003/2188(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A5-0094/2004

Texts tabled :

A5-0094/2004

Debates :

Votes :

PV 09/03/2004 - 9.19

Texts adopted :

P5_TA(2004)0142

Texts adopted
PDF 138kWORD 50k
Tuesday, 9 March 2004 - Strasbourg
The rights of prisoners in the European Union
P5_TA(2004)0142A5-0094/2004

European Parliament recommendation to the Council on the rights of prisoners in the European Union (2003/2188(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the proposal for a recommendation to the Council by Marco Cappato and Giuseppe Di Lello Finuoli on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group on the rights of prisoners in the European Union (B5-0362/2003/rev.),

–   having regard to the European Union instruments dealing with the protection of human rights, in particular Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular Article 4 thereof, and the draft European Constitution, which would make that Charter binding,

–   having regard to the international instruments dealing with human rights and banning torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5), the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights (Article 7), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Optional Protocol to that Convention on the establishment of a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to places of detention,

–   having regard to the Council of Europe instruments dealing with human rights and the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, in particular the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 3), the protocols to that Convention and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the 1987 European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which established the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), and the CPT's reports,

–   having regard to the instruments which deal more specifically with the rights of persons who have been deprived of their liberty, in particular: at United Nations level, the standard minimum rules on the treatment of prisoners and the declarations and principles adopted by the General Assembly; at Council of Europe level, Resolution (73)5 on standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, Recommendation R(87)3 on European prison rules, the other recommendations adopted by the Committee of Ministers(1) and the recommendations adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly,

–   having regard to the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (which were adopted by the General Assembly in its Resolution 45/113 of 14  December 1990) and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules), which were adopted by the General Assembly in its Resolution 40/33 of 29 November 1985,

–   having regard to its annual resolutions on respect for human rights in the European Union, its resolution of 18 January 1996 on poor conditions in prisons in the European Union(2), and its resolution of 17 December 1998 on prison conditions in the European Union: improvements and alternative penalties(3),

–   having regard to its repeated calls to the Commission and Council to propose a framework decision on the rights of prisoners(4),

–   having regard to the Council resolution on the treatment of drug addicts in prison and the Council Recommendation of 18 June 2003 on the prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug dependence(5),

–   having regard to the report of the EU Network of Independent Experts in Fundamental Rights on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU and its Member States in 2002,

–   having regard to Rule 49(3) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs (A5-0094/2004),

A.   whereas the European Union has set itself the task of developing an area of freedom, security and justice, and whereas, pursuant to Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union, it respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, thereby taking on positive obligations which it must meet in order to honour that commitment,

B.   whereas the application of the principle of the mutual recognition of criminal law decisions and the entry into force of the European arrest warrant have created an urgent need for additional measures in the area of the effective protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular in the light of the fact that the number of Member State nationals held in another Member State may rise as a result,

C.   whereas, according to Council of Europe statistics, on 1 September 2002 a total of 539 436 persons were being held in prison in the enlarged European Union, statistics which paint an alarming picture:

   overcrowding;
   excessive increase in the prison population;
   rise in the number of foreign nationals being held;
   high numbers of remand prisoners;
   numerous cases of death and suicide,

D.   whereas the CPT's reports draw attention to the persistence of certain serious problems, such as ill-treatment and the unsuitability of prison facilities, activities and health care,

E.   whereas Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights impose on the Member States not only negative obligations, by banning them from subjecting prisoners to inhuman and degrading treatment, but also positive obligations, by requiring them to ensure that prison conditions are consistent with human dignity and that thorough, effective investigations are carried out if such rights are violated,

F.   whereas the Council of Europe is in the process of revising its European Prison Rules, and whereas a proposal on the drafting of a European Prisons Charter has been put forward in the Parliamentary Assembly by Michel Hunault, rapporteur on the situation of European prisons and pre-trial detention centres,

G.   whereas only eight EU Member States and accession countries (Austria, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Italy, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have signed the Optional Protocol to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and whereas only three (Spain, Malta and the United Kingdom) have ratified it,

H.   whereas some Member States grant national MPs and MEPs the right to visit and inspect prisons, and whereas it has called for that right to be granted to MEPs throughout the territory of the EU(6),

I.   whereas one of the problems to which Member States frequently draw attention is the lack of resources available to improve prisons, and whereas it may be necessary to create a budget heading with a view to encouraging them to comply with high standards and the CPT's recommendations,

J.   whereas providing decent conditions for prisoners and granting them access to schemes designed to prepare them for a return to society help to reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend,

K.   having regard to the existence of special prison regimes, whether legal or de facto, and pointing out that the CPT has expressed concern at the Italian regime known as 41 bis, that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Italy on account of the length of time which it has taken the Supervisory Court to consider the appeals lodged by a prisoner, and that in its report on 2002 the EU Network of Independent Experts in Fundamental Rights stated that 'insofar as this exceptional regime comprises ... measures that bear no relation whatsoever to the objective of security, we may question its compatibility with the approach advocated by the CPT',

L.   whereas the situation in "residence centres for foreigners" is extremely alarming, as has recently been reported by Médecins sans Frontières in the case of Italy, for example, and whereas asylum-seekers" rights to legal assistance and healthcare are being violated,

M.   whereas the Member States have given an undertaking in the Council of Europe to extend the use of penalties which offer an alternative to prison and imprisonment,

N.   whereas the Council has adopted resolutions and recommendations (which are not always implemented by the Member States) concerning the specific problem of drug dependence and the reduction of the related risks, dealing in particular with the treatment of drug dependence in prison or outside,

O.   whereas, under the Italian Presidency, the Council launched an initiative on prisons,

1.  Addresses the following recommendations to the Council:

   a) continue its activities on matters relating to prisoners, in particular by coordinating a joint position to which the Member States and accession countries can subscribe and by encouraging the Council of Europe to revise its European Prison Rules, incorporating a higher degree of protection on the basis of the principles drawn up by the CPT and the European Court of Human Rights;
   b) encourage, on the basis of a joint contribution subscribed to by all the EU Member States, the drafting of a European Prisons Charter covering all the Council of Europe's Member States;
  c) work to ensure that such a Charter incorporates detailed rules, binding on the Member States, concerning:
   a prisoner's right to have access to a lawyer, to healthcare and to notify a third person that he or she has been detained;
   the right to physical and mental safety, in particular protection against violence committed by fellow prisoners and the prevention of suicide;
   prison conditions: health, accommodation, cleanliness, ventilation, light, food;
   the right of access to internal and, if necessary, external medical services;
   re-education, training, rehabilitation and reintegration into society and the workforce, in particular through the provision of information to prisoners concerning the resources available to help them prepare for such reintegration;
   the separation of categories of detained persons: juveniles, persons on remand, convicted criminals;
   specific measures concerning vulnerable groups: juveniles, women, persons with psychiatric or physical problems, the sick, the elderly, persons likely to commit suicide, drug addicts, foreigners, asylum-seekers, etc.;
   special protection for juveniles by means of:
   the provision that imprisonment is a last resort to be turned to when all other alternatives have been exhausted,
   supervisory staff trained to deal with the challenges of working with the age group concerned and with that group's specific needs,
   an appropriate multidisciplinary activity programme combining sport, education and technical and vocational training, and focusing on skills which will facilitate social reintegration following release,
   fair treatment for both men and women in terms of access to activities whilst in prison, pursuant to Rule 26.4 of the Beijing Rules;
   the protection of women by means of:
   physical separation from men,
   female supervisory staff or, if that proves physically impossible, a mixed supervisory staff as a minimum requirement,
   an appropriate response to women's specific health and hygiene needs, including screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer;
   special protection for pregnant women and for the mothers of young children by means of:
   a diet suitable for pregnancy,
   gynaecological examinations and labour taking place without handcuffs or any other form of restraint,
   babies to be born outside prison,
   prison accommodation for mothers and their young children which does not reflect the prison world and which is geared to children's needs;
   visiting rights for relatives, friends and third parties:
   the right to an emotional and sex life, for which suitable arrangements must be made and areas provided;
   the provision of visiting rooms enabling families to be reunited - in particular areas equipped for activities involving imprisoned parents and their children;
   an effective right of appeal to enable prisoners to uphold their rights in the face of arbitrary punishment or treatment;
   special security regimes;
   the greatest possible use of open or semi-open prisons and the promotion of measures which offer an alternative to imprisonment such as, in particular, community service;
   the provision of information to prisoners concerning their rights, also to be made available on paper and in a language which the prisoner understands;
   training for prison staff and law-enforcement officers;
   d) declare that should this exercise not be completed in the near future, or should the outcome prove unsatisfactory, the European Union will draw up a Charter of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty which is binding on the Member States and which can be invoked before the Court of Justice;
   e) urge the Member States and accession countries to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which establishes a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to places of detention and which confers on those bodies the task of inspecting prisons and hearing appeals by prisoners and of drawing up a public annual report for the relevant parliaments, and encourage the European Union to incorporate a call to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol into its policy vis-à-vis third countries;
   f) take measures at Union level so that national MPs are guaranteed the right to visit and inspect prisons and this right is likewise granted to MEPs on the territory of the EU;
   g) urge the Member States to take action designed to prevent prison suicides and to carry out impartial investigations systematically in cases where a prisoner dies in prison;
   h) initiate an assessment of the laws of the Member States in order to verify that they are consistent with the standards established by the Council of Europe, the CPT, the European Court of Human Rights and its relevant case-law and the observations of the UN Human Rights Committee, Committee against Torture and Special Rapporteur on Torture, and guarantee that the laws in question are actually applied;
   i) call on the Member States to earmark appropriate resources for the restructuring and modernisation of detention centres and to provide the police and prison staff with training concerning prisoners" rights and the monitoring of prisoners suffering from psychological disorders, and create a specific EU budget heading with a view to encouraging such projects;
   j) call on the CPT and the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner to conduct a series of unannounced visits in Member States which have established special regimes, whether legal or de facto, including residence of centres for foreigners, and call on the EU Network of Independent Experts in Fundamental Rights to draw up an analysis of the compatibility of such regimes with fundamental rights and freedoms;
   k) remind the Member States of the undertakings they have given in the Council of Europe to make greater use of penalties which offer an alternative to imprisonment, and urge them to step up their efforts in both the legislative and judicial spheres;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Committee on Human Rights, the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(1) For an exhaustive list of the Council of Europe's recommendations and resolutions in the penal sphere:http://www.coe.int/T/F/Affaires_juridiques/Coopération_juridique/Emprisonnement_et_alternatives/Instruments_juridiques/Liste_instruments.asp#TopOfPage
(2) OJ C 32, 5.2.1996, p.102.
(3) OJ C 98, 9.4.1999, p.299.
(4) See its recommendation of 6 November 2003 to the Council on procedural safeguards for suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings throughout the European Union, paragraph 23: "Urges the Council and Commission to speed up the investigation on the condition of prisoners and of prisons in the EU, with a view to adopting a framework directive on prisoners' rights and common minimum standards to guarantee such rights on the basis of Article 6 TEU" (P5_TA (2003)0484); and its resolution of 4 September 2003 on the situation as regards fundamental rights in the European Union (2002), paragraph 22: "Considers, at a general level, that efforts must also be made in a European area of freedom, security and justice to mobilise European capacities to improve the operation of the police and prison system, for example ... by drawing up a framework decision on minimum standards to protect the rights of prisoners in the EU". (P5 _TA(2003)0376).
(5)4 OJ L 165, 3.7.2003, p. 31.
(6) See, for example, paragraph 41 of its abovementioned resolution of 17 December 1998: 'Calls for Members of the European Parliament to have right to visit and inspect prisons and detention centres for refugees on the territory of the European Union'.

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