The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) was established under article 1 of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment with a mandate to examine “by means of visits, the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty with a view to strengthening, if necessary, the protection of such persons from torture and from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The Committee is composed of independent and impartial experts with a variety of backgrounds, including lawyers, medical doctors and specialists in prison or police matters.
The CPT fulfils its preventive function through a system of visits to places of detention in all Member States to monitor how persons deprived of their liberty are treated and, if necessary, to recommend improvements. These visits are carried out periodically, but may also occur on an ‘ad hoc’ basis. States can only object to a visit under exceptional circumstances, and must then immediately take steps to enable the Committee to visit as soon as possible. Under the Convention, CPT delegations have unlimited access to places of detention, the right to carry out unannounced visits and the right to move inside such places without restrictions.
The recommendations which the CPT may formulate on the basis of facts found during the visit are included in a report which is sent to the State concerned and may be made public at the State's request. The CPT's reports are the starting point for an ongoing dialogue with States Parties on the improvement of conditions of detention and measures necessary to prevent torture and ill-treatment of detainees.