Geneva - UN experts voiced alarm on Monday at disturbing and cramped conditions in Benin detention facilities, including poor access to water and food, and urged the west African country to immediately reduce overcrowding.
After making a surprise visit there, the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) said Benin had made some progress since its previous visit in 2008, but warned conditions remained dire.
"Most of the detention centres we visited were overcrowded and lacked adequate staffing and other resources," Victor Madrigal Borloz, who headed the five-member SPT delegation, said in a statement.
The committee had visited four police stations, three civilian prisons and one centre for juveniles in Porto Novo, Cotonou and Abomey, all in the south of the country.
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Borloz voiced particular alarm over conditions in Abomey prison, which he described as "inhumane and shocking."
"In our discussions with the government of Benin, we made it clear that to avoid extreme suffering, it is both essential and urgent to improve detainees' access to water and food, deal with unhygienic conditions and reduce overcrowding," he said.
The committee meanwhile noted that changes to Benin's penal code, including a new requirement that anyone arrested must be presented to a judicial authority within 48 hours, had led to some improvements.
The committee said it was preparing to hand over a report to the Benin government containing its "observations and recommendations on prevention of torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty."
While the report will be submitted confidentially, SPT encouraged Benin to make the findings public.