1.10 Procedural Safeguards for Detainees

Ensuring procedural safeguards for detainees is essential for the safety and security of detainees, to earn the detainees trust, respect his or her privacy, and ensure confidentiality (See Procedural Safeguards for Detainees, Module 2). Disregard for certain procedural safeguards may not only result in inaccurate medical evaluation, but also the possibility of administrative and/or criminal santions against the medical expert responsible for forensic documentation of torture and ill-treatment. As described in Module 2, procedural safeguards for detainees can be summarised as follows:
  • Forensic medical evaluation of detainees should be conducted in response to official written requests by public prosecutors or other appropriate officials.
  • Detainees themselves, their lawyers or relatives have an independent right to request a medical evaluation to seek evidence of torture and ill-treatment.
  • It is mandatory that detainees undergo a preliminary medical examination at the time of detention; a further examination and evaluation should be made upon their release.
  • The detainee should be taken to the forensic medical examination by officials other than soldiers or police working in the unit where the detainee is held.
  • The officials who supervise the transportation of the detainee should be responsible to the public prosecutors and not to other law enforcement officials.
  • The detainee must be:
    • independently and thoroughly examined by a qualified doctor, and, without any police officer being present.
  • The presence of police, soldier, warden, or other law enforcement officers in the examination room, for whatever reason, should be noted in the physician's official medical report. Notation of police, soldier, prison officer, or other law enforcement official’s presence during the examination may be grounds for disregarding a "negative" medical report.
  • Medico-legal evaluations of detainees should include the use of a standardized medical report form.
  • The report must include the story, details of injuries and psychological findings that may be attributable to torture or ill-treatment together with explanations of the patient and the opinion of the doctor.
  • Under no circumstances should a copy of the medical report be transferred to law enforcement officials; instead it should be transmitted to the official requesting the report, generally the public prosecutor.
  • If the forensic medical examination supports allegations of torture or ill-treatment, the detainee should not be returned to the place of detention, but should instead be presented to the competent prosecutor or judge for purposes of determining the detainee’s legal disposition.
  • Access to the lawyer should be provided at the time of the medical examination.
  • The medical examination should be free of charge.
  • Forensic medical services should be under judicial or an independent authority and not under the same governmental authority as the police and prison system.
  • Detainees have the right to obtain a second or alternative medical evaluation by a qualified physician also during his/her detention.