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Publication

Rights Behind Bars: Regional Guidance

November 12, 2019
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Deprivation of liberty is amongst the harshest of measures that states can take against individuals and should only be used as a last resort. The impact of detention can be devastating in itself, meaning losing access to family and friends, or your job. But in addition to all of this, detention exposes a person to a heightened risk of violent crime: according to the World Health Organisation, a shocking 25% of prisoners are victimized by violence each year. This might not come as a surprise; however, it remains unacceptable that violence in places of detention is much more common than amongst the general public. And when we talk about violence, it can take different forms: it may occur between detainees or be inflicted by officials working in detention centres.

Putting a person in detention not only places them in a violent setting, it also makes them vulnerable. Imagine being detained: you are isolated, stigmatized, without access to information and often without means of communication with the outside world. Detention itself is also not transparent: it occurs behind closed doors, and there is a lack of accountability and oversight. Procedural safeguards are difficult enough outside of detention, but within it, people’s rights are far from guaranteed. Places of detention can and often do operate as a kind of legal black hole.

Due to the vulnerability of detainees and the high risk of violence in detention, when states detain people, they have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure their safety. Over the past two years, Fair Trials has worked with five partners to examine the barriers to access to justice for detained people who suffer physical violence, whether by detention staff or co-detainees, in six EU Member States (Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden). We focused on immigration detention and pre-trial detention in the context of criminal proceedings.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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