Commissioner for Human Rights

Statement by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture following the ruling on the torture of detainees by police officers in Olsztyn


According to the investigators' findings, between March 2014 and April 2015, officers from the Olsztyn City Police Station (Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship) conducted violent interrogations of detainees. During the interrogations, the officers allegedly kicked, punched and hit the suspects with batons and stun guns. Seventeen Olsztyn police officers were accused of using torture and threats against detainees.

After more than eight years of proceedings, on 30 June 2002 the District Court in Ostróda sentenced a total of 15 police officer, to prison terms ranging from eight months to six years and six months.

The NMPT states that torture is unacceptable and has no place in a democratic state under the rule of law. It is essential to send a clear and strong message to state authorities, including the police, that the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by state officials is unacceptable and will be severely punished, both for the perpetrators and for those who had a duty to respond to such atrocities but failed to do so. The national authorities should take effective measures to prevent the use of violence by the police, in particular by enhancing the professionalism of police officers through training, in particular on respect for the dignity of detainees and the use of direct coercive measures in accordance with international standards, but also by taking seriously any signals of ill-treatment and by making torture a separate offence in the Penal Code, punishable by appropriate terms of imprisonment.

It is also worth mentioning that in 2019, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) conducted its first ad hoc visit to Poland on the treatment of detainees by the police. At that time, the Committee noted the lack of progress in the implementation of basic safeguards against ill-treatment. The CPT stressed the need to train police officers in order to prevent and minimise the use of violence in the context of custody. The experts also pointed out that, in cases where the use of force is necessary, police officers should use professional techniques that minimise the risk of harm to citizens.