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Pretrial detention should be used only as ‘a last resort’

Pretrial detention (detention on remand) should be used only “exceptionally, as a last resort,” said the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), at the end of a debate which was held in Strasbourg today during the plenary session.

The Assembly pointed out that pretrial detention had multiple negative effects both on the detainee and on society as a whole – for example, the risk of detainees being exposed to violence by other inmates and officials, or the high cost of detention in comparison with other measures of restraint.

Citing examples from Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Russian Federation and Turkey, PACE noted that “abusive grounds” for pretrial detention were sometimes used, in particular to discredit political competitors, to extort bribes, or even to intimidate civil society and silence critical voices.

The parliamentarians also pointed out that the root causes of the abusive use of pretrial detention were “a political and legal culture which rewards those who are perceived as tough on crime, at the expense of the presumption of innocence”, or an imbalance between the prosecution and the defence in terms of power.

In a resolution adopted on the basis of a report by Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD), PACE called on all States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights to implement measures aimed at reducing pretrial detention.