The country’s prisons and detention centers for both sexes failed to meet international standards. Problems included overcrowding, violence among prisoners, intimidation from guards, violence by staff, dilapidated and unhygienic conditions, lack of educational and recreational opportunities for juveniles, and some reports of sexual abuse of female prisoners. In its December 2012 report, the CPT detailed overcrowding and poor conditions for remand prisoners. The report particularly criticized the treatment of juveniles held in remand and recommended taking action to offer them educational and recreational activities and to ensure that authorities never held them in the equivalent of solitary confinement. In the remand (pretrial detention) sections of the Skopje and Tetovo Prisons, detainees had no organized activities and less than one hour of daily outdoor exercise, if any.
In its October progress report, the European Commission reported that conditions in the Tetovo Juvenile Correctional and Rehabilitation Institute and the closed ward of Idrizovo continued to raise serious concerns. The report noted that most of the prisons continued to be underfunded and unable to cover basic maintenance expenses and mechanisms for preventing and combating mistreatment and corruption in prisons remained weak. Authorities expected that a new prison, which opened in Kumanovo on September 30, would alleviate some overcrowding.
On May 16, the ombudsman’s Office of the National Prevention Mechanism presented its report on the conditions in incarceration facilities, including mental health institutions. According to the ombudsman, the majority of police detention facilities did not meet, or only partially met, the required standards. Proper and timely registration of arrested persons needed improvement, and arrestees did not always benefit from a lawyer or doctor’s assistance while in police custody. Despite some renovations, many of the prisons were still overcrowded, detainees and prisoners spent up to 22 hours a day in closed spaces, medical assistance and hygiene were very poor, and the report described solitary confinement as inhuman. The situation in psychiatric incarceration facilities were similar – living conditions were poor, qualified numbers of staff were limited, and implementation of medical procedures was insufficient.
On October 29, after his ad hoc visit to the Suto Orizari detention prison, the ombudsman cited overcrowding due to a constantly increasing number of detainees and poor conditions, resulting in failure to meet minimum human rights standards. He recommended that courts use alternative instruments to detention to ensure defendants’ presence at trials.
Physical Conditions: The country had 11 prisons and two separate juvenile correctional institutions. Of the 11 prisons, two (Idrizovo and Stip) were high-security facilities. Six prisons also housed pretrial detainees in separate detention wards. Authorities held men and women separately in both prisons and detention facilities. As of December the country’s prisons held approximately 2,500 convicted adult prisoners, 21 juveniles, and 500 pretrial detainees. The prisons were designed to house 1,825 prisoners, 44 juveniles, and 421 detainees.
As of November 14, there were three reported deaths in prisons and detention facilities. Investigators into the three deaths reported no allegations of misconduct. Prisoners had access to potable water, but observers described physical conditions (heating, ventilation or lighting) as poor or problematic in the Suto Orizari detention center and sections of Idrizovo, the largest state prison.
Administration: Authorities considered record keeping at prisons to be adequate but not always timely. The Ministry of Interior inspected the registers of detained persons. Authorities used alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent offenders, including fines, suspended sentences, incarceration in minimum-security prisons, and house arrest. The government usually granted the ombudsman access to convicted prisoners. The ombudsman regularly visited the country’s prisons and maintained complaint boxes in each of the facilities. Prison officials allowed visitors access. The ombudsman stated that prison authorities did not interfere with the right of prisoners to express their religious beliefs or practice religious rites. Prisoners and detainees could not submit complaints without fear of retribution. The ombudsman investigated all credible allegations of inhuman conditions.
Independent Monitoring: The law allows family members, physicians, diplomatic representatives, and representatives from the CPT and the International Committee of the Red Cross access to pretrial detainees with the approval of the investigative judge. The government usually granted independent humanitarian organizations access to convicted prisoners.
Improvements: National authorities claimed they were taking measures to improve detention conditions in the prisons, particularly at Idrizovo Prison, with the support of a loan from the Council of Europe Development Bank. The prison’s policies provided all prisoners with a range of activities as well as the legally required two hours of daily outdoor exercise. On September 30, the government opened a newly constructed prison near Kumanovo that can house up to 250 inmates. It cost approximately 3.8 million euros ($5.1 million), which the Council of Europe Development Bank financed with funds from a 52 million euro ($70 million) loan.