Parliamentary question: Detention conditions in the EU (27 October 2011)


The Commission has issued a Green Paper on the application of EU criminal justice legislation in the field of detention, on which it is currently consulting stakeholders. The Green Paper highlights the connections between detention conditions and various EU instruments, such as the European Arrest Warrant and the European Supervision Order, and illustrates how pre-trial detention, the situation of children and detention conditions are issues on which the EU could take initiatives.

The Communication contains an annex illustrating that the situation in Member States is very varied and often worrying, notably in relation to the number of pre-trial detainees, prison occupancy level and overcrowding, the size of the prison population, and the detention rate for non-nationals. The European Court of Human Rights has also repeatedly condemned EU Member States with regard to detention conditions, the length of pre-trial detention and the administration of justice, including on the basis of the reports of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

What will the Commission do at EU level to ensure that the fundamental rights of persons detained in prisons are respected and that detention conditions are improved in Member States?

Does the Commission recognise the tension between substandard detention conditions and the execution of a European arrest warrant as underlined by the questions raised in Case C-396/11, Radu?

Can the Commission provide concrete statistics as regards the average amount of time persons surrendered under a European Arrest Warrant spent in pre-trial detention?

Is the Commission willing to propose procedural requirements for keeping suspects in pre-trial detention, including possibilities for review and maximum periods before being released?

Is the Commission willing to propose EU legislation incorporating the European Prison Rules developed by the Council of Europe, particularly as regards accommodation, access to health care and legal advice?

Tatjana Ždanoka (Verts/ALE) speech
– Mr President, I recall the situation in my own country, Latvia. I know the situation very well, due to my experience as a human rights defender who has, for many years, worked on concrete applications coming from places of detention.

The Latvian Human Rights Committee (NGO), of which I am a member, has produced a number of reports on conditions of detention in Latvia, which it has submitted to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture and the appropriate OSCE and Council of Europe bodies.

Thanks to our insistence, the place of detention for illegal immigrants situated at the very centre of Riga, in which people were held in terrible conditions, has been closed. But there still are huge problems relating to conditions of detention in Latvia, and the delegation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture which visited Latvia in 2009 called on the Latvian authorities to improve conditions, especially for prisoners serving life sentences.

Therefore, we need EU legislation incorporating European prison rules, particularly as regards accommodation, access to health care and legal advice.

Judith Sargentini, Jan Philipp Albrecht, Rui Tavares, Tatjana Ždanoka, Raül Romeva i Rueda, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group