New EU victims’ coverage to convey extra rights behind bars


The deprivation of liberty is amongst the harshest measures {that a} state can take towards an individual and will solely be imposed in restricted circumstances as a measure of final resort.

Putting an individual in detention additionally locations them in a violent setting. The European Commission has lastly recognised the vulnerability of detainees and formally included detainees in its new technique on victims’ rights for 2020-2025, which was revealed on the June 24, recognised their isolation and stigmatisation and their lack of ability to entry justice.

Alongside kids, folks with disabilities, the aged, or victims of human trafficking, folks in detention should profit from particular scrutiny and a spotlight from the EU and its member states. This approach represents a elementary paradigm shift from a prison justice system that artificially distinguishes and opposes victims and perpetrators. It will help change how detainees, one of many teams folks and politics care the least about, are perceived in our societies altogether.

This acknowledgement is much more related at a time the place COVID-19 measures have elevated detainees’ isolation, with devastating penalties to their bodily and psychological well being. In the previous months, most detainees haven’t been in a position to have guests, and in some instances haven’t been supplied with various technique of communication with the surface world. This state of affairs, for sure, has elevated their vulnerability to violence and their lack of ability to report it.

For too lengthy, detainees have merely been missed as a bunch weak to violent criminality, regardless of clear proof that they’re considerably extra in danger than the final inhabitants of being victims of violence, whether or not from detention employees or different detainees. The World Health Organization’s 2014 “Prisons & Health” report highlighted that, in Europe, “about 25% of prisoners are victimised by violence each year, while 4–5% experience sexual violence, and 1–2% are raped”.

Over the final two years, Fair Trials, a prison justice watchdog, has labored with companions in a number of EU member states to doc the limitations to accessing justice for individuals who have suffered bodily violence in pre-trial detention and in immigration amenities. The findings and suggestions had been introduced final November to the European Parliament, and have now been included within the EU Commission’s technique on victims’ rights.

A big a part of the issue resides within the lack of ability of all actors concerned in detention to see detainees additionally as potential victims of crime. Even to detainees themselves, acts of violence are seen, or lived, as an inevitable a part of life behind bars. Despite public data that violence is commonplace in detention, our analysis exhibits that restricted to no motion is taken by authorities to stop, examine and sanction violence that happens in locations of detention.


Detainees face institutional limitations to reporting crime. There are restricted means to securely and promptly report crimes to authorities. Conflicts of curiosity are embedded within the functioning of detention amenities and foster a legislation of silence. Last yr, a trial in Brussels unveiled the magnitude of this downside. After a prolonged investigation, 22 jail guards from a Brussels jail had been prosecuted for violence, and inhuman and degrading remedy towards detainees and nearly all of them had been convicted. For years, detainees had been recurrently crushed, humiliated and insulted by a bunch of guards. These crimes had been identified to the jail administration and exterior monitoring our bodies. Yet, for years, no motion was taken to research these and shield the detainees.

Like victims of home violence, victims in detention reside below the identical roof as their aggressor. They have nowhere to run, nowhere to cover from them. The threat of repeat victimisation, intimidation and reprisals towards those that communicate out discourages the reporting of crime. It is just too dangerous to take action, when the chance of truly accessing justice, and receiving assist and safety, is so low. Institutional silence and inaction create a local weather of impunity which ends up in a vicious circle of extra violence and extra silence.

When, and in the event that they even begin, prison investigations are too usually discontinued for need of ample proof. The opacity of detention establishments prevents detainees and their attorneys, and typically legislation enforcement authorities, from successfully gathering proof to assist their declare, together with witness statements and digicam recordings inside detention amenities. Critically, entry to impartial medical care is commonly obstructed or delayed, and so is detainees’ well timed entry to medical experiences, a key aspect to proof their victimisation.

Germany took over the EU presidency on July 1 and disclosed its priorities for the subsequent six months. We welcome Germany’s recognition that the COVID-19 disaster has made clear the necessity to take care of particularly weak folks and to assist the brand new EU Strategy for Victims’ Rights. We have a possibility right here to progress within the paradigm shift and take motion to handle the vulnerability of detainees as potential victims of crime, too. Fair Trials requires the Presidency to steer on a broader reflection over how the EU will help shield the rights of one in all our societies’ most weak teams, males, ladies and youngsters in detention, to ensure their safety, and provides them the assist and entry to justice that they’re entitled to.