In a report published today, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), found that no ill-treatment was reported in Icelandic prisons, police or psychiatric establishments visited and that the material conditions were good or even very good. The Committee is concerned, however that little or no action has been taken on a significant number of long-standing recommendations made by the CPT, some of them dating back to the very first visit to Iceland 26 years ago.
The committee’s long-standing recommendations include addressing the lack of systematic and prompt medical screening of newly arrived prison inmates, including checks for injuries and transmissible diseases. In addition, the CPT noted that drug use continues to be one of the major challenges facing the Icelandic prison system. The CPT calls on the authorities to put in place a comprehensive strategy to support prisoners with drug-related problems, including harm reduction measures.
Furthermore, the CPT called for greater access to psychiatric care and psychological assistance in prisons, as well as the implementation of the long-standing recommendation to improve legal safeguards in cases of involuntary hospitalisation.
The CPT expressed concern that uniformed police officers can be called on to help healthcare staff to control patients with aggressive behaviour. The Committee had recommended stopping this practice as early as its 2012 visit.
The report is based on CPT’s fifth visit to Iceland which occurred from May 17 to 24, 2019. In December 2019, the Icelandic government established an interdisciplinary mental health team to provide prisoners around the country with mental health services. Icelandic authorities are due to respond to the report by May 2020.