Many EU countries have dismal record of pretrial detention


With Turkey at the center of criticism regarding pretrial detention in recent months, a report by an international agency has revealed that some EU countries have a poor record of pretrial detention and in many countries the percentage of the those imprisoned pending trial is very high.

The report, titled “Detained without trial: Fair Trials International's response to the European Commission's Green Paper on detention,” prepared at the request of the European Commission by Fair Trials International (FTI), a British nongovernmental organization that defends the rights of people facing charges in countries other than their own, stated that one in five prisoners in EU prisons are suspects pending trial.

According to the report, released in October 2011, 132,800 of 643,000 prisoners are jailed pending trial throughout the EU. Nearly 21 percent of total prisoners are awaiting trial.
The report, which published data on EU countries' pretrial detention systems, aims to bring the issue to the European Parliament in order to address the need for reform regarding the “use of excessive or arbitrary pre-detention trials across the Europe.”

Several countries such as Ireland and Lithuania “have no maximum period of pretrial detention laid down in their legal system,” while the Polish and German judicial mechanisms allow for an extension of detention with no upper limit, the report stated.

In addition, “the maximum lengths of pretrial detention in France depend on the penalty the defendant would face if convicted, and can range from four months to four years,” the report stated. Spain also sets a maximum term of pretrial detention at four years.

In 2011, one in four prisoners in France was being held in jail pending trial. The average detention period for suspects was nine months in 2005. In Ireland, ‘'There is no legal limit to the amount of time a defendant can spend in pretrial detention,” the report noted, adding "Detainees can spend 12 months in custody without any intervening review of the grounds for detention.”
Meanwhile, Spain was strongly criticized in the report over its dismal record of pretrial detentions.

The report slams Spain over the case of Mohammed Abadi, an Iraqi national with British refugee status, who waited five years for a court hearing. He was arrested in Malaga in 2005 over accusations of alleged links to a terrorist organization. He spent two years in prison and then was released only conditionally as his passport was confiscated by the police and he was barred from leaving the country.

The first hearing was in summer 2010. He was acquitted by the court due to the lack of concrete evidence against him at the first hearing.

Roughly 26 percent of all inmates in EU prisons are foreign nationals. Greece has the highest proportion of foreign nationals in its prisons, with 64 percent of inmates in Greek prisons being citizens of a different country.

Another problem that was addressed in the report was prison overcrowding. According to data provided by the International Center for Prison Studies (ICPS) and used in the same report, Bulgaria takes the lead in prison overcrowding; its prisons are operating at 56 percent over capacity. Italy comes in second place at 49 percent over capacity.

Source: Today’s Zaman

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