Ombudswoman says detainees’ rights are being violated

Illustrative photo: theglobalpanorama, CC BY-SA 2.0

Police officers often disrespect detainees’ basic human rights, says a report by the Office of the Ombudswoman.

Anna Šabatová | Photo: Adam Kebrt,  Czech Radio
People who end up in detention cells in the Czech Republic are often humiliated and their rights, privacy and dignity degraded, according to a report released by the Office of the Ombudswoman this week. Ombudswoman Anna Šabatová, who inspected detention cells around the country, claims police officers often disrespect detainees’ basic human rights:

Over the past two years, the Office of the Ombudswoman made unannounced visits to 47 cells at provisional detention quarters in 14 district stations across the Czech Republic and discovered several areas, where the police frequently violated detainees’ rights.

According to Ondřej Vala from the Ombudswoman’s office, people who end up in provisional detention centres are often unaware of their rights:

“The arrested people are often not informed about their rights, they don’t get a form and they are not required to sign it.

“The detainees should also be aware that the cell is under camera surveillance, so if they have a complaint, the footage can be used as evidence.

“If people were more aware of their rights, it could prevent potential conflicts in the future.”

Another alarming discovery the Ombudswoman made was that all detainees, regardless of the nature of their offence, have to undergo a body search, which requires them to strip naked and squat.

Such a practice, according to the Ombudswoman, is unnecessary and is in violation with their dignity. She also points out that the body search should always take place in private and out of the reach of cameras, which is not always the case.

Moreover, the police have no internal rules defining under what conditions body searches should be performed and how they should be performed.

The Ombudswoman’s report also points out that some of the cells for preliminary detention are not sufficiently equipped. Ondřej Vala again.

Illustrative photo: theglobalpanorama,  CC BY-SA 2.0
“In many cases, basic hygienic equipment, such as toilet paper, toothbrushes or soap, is not provided in the cell. In some cases, there wasn’t even a mattress on the bed.

“People also have to hand in all their accessories, such as glasses, because of safety reasons, regardless their individual needs.”

The Office of the Ombudswoman has already sent the report to the police presidium, suggesting what measures should be taken to improve the situation. It will also be sent to police stations with preliminary detention cells and to police schools all around the country.

The Office of the Ombudswoman will also continue to organise training sessions for police officers to prevent such shortcomings in the future.

Under the current legislation, everyone who commits a criminal offence or a misdemeanour may end up in a preliminary detention cell. They must be released within 72 hours unless an official decision on their pre-trial is issued.