North Macedonia: cramped prison conditions, detainee ill treatment and opaque prison management among longstanding concerns for anti-torture committee

Despite minor improvements including the renovation of one wing of the remand section of Skopje Prison and the closure of three problematic wings of Idrizovo Prison, most longstanding concerns with respect to living conditions in prisons persist, concludes the latest report on North Macedonia published by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).

The CPT noted cramped, unhygienic and decrepit conditions of detention in the so called ‘ambulanta’ unit, the closed-regime wings of Idrizovo Prison and the unrenovated wings of Skopje Prison, based on an “ad hoc visit” to the country from 7-9 December 2020.

Published with the Government response, the report criticises an “anachronistic” approach towards treatment of remand prisoners at Skopje Prison (being locked in their cells for 23 hours a day with nothing to do and being denied contacts with their children), no “purposeful” activities for sentenced prisoners at Idrizovo Prison and poor-quality healthcare offered to prisoners due to the reluctance of the Ministry of Health to take a more “strategic approach” in its delivery.

Furthermore, the CPT again heard allegations of physical ill-treatment of criminal suspects by police officers and inspectors consisting primarily of slaps, punches, kicks and blows with truncheons or other objects (including hand-held electroshock devices and walkie-talkies), allegedly inflicted for the purpose of apparently extracting a confession. The CPT calls on the authorities to vigorously explore all means to ensure that the message of zero tolerance of ill-treatment of detained persons reaches law enforcement officials at all levels.