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Council of Europe raps police violence in Portugal

Inspectors also found conditions in prisons wanting and restriction of rights after arrest

A Council of Europe report has recommended that Portugal clamp down on violence in its police force, guarantee that reports of mistreatment are investigated, and ensure that human rights are respected when arrests are made.

The multilateral organization's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) called on the Portuguese authorities to make sure police use "no more force than is strictly necessary" when detaining suspects. The committee was in Portugal between February 6 and 17, 2012 when it met with government officials and social groups and visited prisons, psychiatric units and police stations.

During its visit, a suspect in Lisbon was beaten so badly he was taken from a station to hospital, and a 16-year-old was punched in the face by two officers while being detained inside his school.

The report cited these two cases and recommended that officers who are under investigation be prohibited from dealing with detainees. It also said that after arrest, a suspect must be allowed access to a lawyer, a telephone and be read his rights.

The CPT also recommended a strategic plan be put in place to prevent the "overcrowding of prisons" and that the maximum time an inmate can be held in solitary confinement be set at 14 days. The CPT visited the psychiatric unit at the Santa Cruz de Bispo prison in Oporto and termed abuses against prisoners at the unit "unacceptable."