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Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, police commonly beat criminal suspects, particularly during initial interrogations. Law enforcement officers also physically abused street children, the majority of whom were Roma (see Section 5).
Criminal suspects in police custody run a significant risk of being mistreated, most often during the initial interrogation. In February the Council of Europe reported that the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) 2001 survey of incarcerated persons arrested after January 2000 found that 49 percent (compared with 51 percent in 1999) of interviewed prisoners reported that police officers used physical force against them during arrest; 44 percent (compared with 53 percent in 1999) reported one or more beatings at police stations. Romani prisoners reported being abused more frequently than did other prisoners. Very seldom were allegations of police abuse properly investigated, nor were the offending officers consistently punished. The Military Prosecutor's Office in particular had not investigated incidents of alleged police abuse thoroughly or expeditiously.
Although some government officials stated that, under the country’s criminal code, any complaints about police beatings are required to be heard by judges, at times this law was not respected in practice. Human rights monitors reported that they received many complaints from persons who were too intimidated to lodge an official complaint with the authorities. Human rights observers charged that police often handled minor offenses by arresting suspects, beating them, and releasing them within a 24-hour period, so that no judicial involvement was required (see Section 1.d.)
Conditions in some prisons remained harsh and included overcrowding, inadequate lavatory facilities, and insufficient heating and ventilation. However, according to the BHC, prison overcrowding improved during the year with the opening of several new prison facilities. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) prison monitors reported that brutality committed by prison guards against inmates continued to be a problem, despite the MOI issuing instructions in August on detention procedures to reduce abuses. There were also reports of brutality among inmates. The process through which prisoners could complain of substandard conditions or of mistreatment did not function effectively. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reported that, at the end of the year, there were 788 charged persons in the country's 65 detention centers and a total of 10,066 persons (of whom 325 were arraigned, 1536 were in trial phase, 8,205 were convicted) in the country’s 12 prisons.
Men and women were not held in the same prisons: 1 of the 12 prisons was reserved for women. In all prisons, convicted prisoners were held separately from pretrial detainees. The MOJ also reported that there were 79 minors in the country’s 2 labor correction hostels, which were used to hold persons under age 18 and were less restrictive than prisons.
The Government generally permitted requests by independent observers to monitor conditions in most prisons and detention facilities.
« Human Rights Report Introduction
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