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HFHR intervenes to stop maltreatment of former court president detained on remand

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has contacted the Governor of Rzeszów Prison, referring to the possibility of major violations of rights of Krzysztof S., a former president of the Court of Appeal in Kraków, who was detained on remand from October 2017 to February 2018.

Abused while in custody

Mr S. is a suspect in a case involving a corruption scheme in Cracow-based courts of appeal. According to an article published at OKO.press, a fact-checking web portal, S. was detained on remand after the Supreme Court revoked his judicial immunity. The case was transferred to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Rzeszów and later the man was detained at the local prison.

During the period of his detention, Krzysztof S. was placed at a single cell with real-time CCTV monitoring, in the prison’s maximum security unit. He was repeatedly subjected to body searches during which he was ordered to strip and raise hands in the crouched position.

Importantly, while giving him such orders, prison guards emphasised that S. was the only inmate subjected to daily body searches and said that even such measures were not imposed against even the most dangerous prisoners held at the facility. Krzysztof S. considers those statements an attempt to force his confession.

Prison authorities explained that body searches were ordered to mitigate the risk of S. committing suicide. However, a medical report issued in the case calls such suspicions unreasonable. The unit’s doctor did not diagnose S. with a nervous breakdown and the only drugs S. took while incarcerated were hypertension medicines.

Violation of article 3 of the European Convention  on Human Rights

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights addressed this situation sending a letter to the Governor of the Correctional Facility in Rzeszów, in which referred to the prohibition of torture contained in the Convention  and the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. HFHR lawyer Piotr Kubaszewski notes: “The prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is of fundamental importance and subject to no exceptions. This principle applies above all to state bodies and public officials such as officers of the Prison Service.”

Body searches admissible only in extraordinary circumstances

As the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly indicated, obligatory strip searches connected with detailed physical examination of an inmate’s body can be conducted only in situations justified by extraordinary security considerations and only for the purpose of prevention of criminal acts. Considering the above, the Helsinki Foundation seriously doubts if the conduct of prison officers performing searches on Krzysztof S. satisfied all the criteria designated in the Strasbourg Court’s jurisprudence.

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