Case Law 106/ 2002 (10/05/2007)
Authority: European Authorities: European Court of human rights
Subject: Prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, right to an effective remedy.From 19 December to November 2001 Mr Beneditov was remanded in custody in two different prison facilities in Moscow.
According to Mr Benediktov, those facilities were severely overcrowded. In the smallest cell of 12.7 sq. m, inmates had less than 2.2 sq. m of personal space and, in a bigger 55.2 sq. m cell, less than 1 sq. m. There were more detainees than bunks so inmates, including the applicant, had to share the sleeping facilities and take turns to rest. He also alleged that, on contracting hepatitis, the prison’s medical assistance was inadequate.
Relying, in particular, on Articles 3 and 13, Mr Benediktov complained about the appalling conditions of his detention from 19 December 1999 to November 2001 and claimed that there was no effective remedy at his disposal to get redress for that complaint.
Decision of the Court
Although the parties had disagreed about the specifics of Mr Benediktov’s conditions of detention on remand, they had agreed upon one point: the size of the cells. Mr Benediktov had alleged severe overcrowding; the Government had been unable to provide complete information on cell population.
Given that the Government had not provided any convincing explanation for that lack of information and that, in their arguments before the Court, had even agreed in principle that the cells could had been overcrowded, the Court decided to examine the issue on the basis of the applicant’s submissions.
Irrespective of the reasons for the overcrowding, the Court considered that it was up to the Russian Government to organise its penitentiary system in such a way as to ensure respect for the dignity of detainees, regardless of financial or logistical difficulties. Indeed, the Court had frequently found a violation of Article 3 on account of detainees’ lack of personal space.
The Court noted that the Government had not put forward any fact or argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the applicant’s case. The fact that the applicant had been obliged for almost two years to live, sleep and use the toilet in the same cell as so many other inmates, except for one hour of outdoor exercise per day, had been in itself sufficient to have caused distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention, and to have aroused in him feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing him.
The ventilation, heating, lighting and sanitary conditions, although not proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to have been unacceptable, were also of relevance in showing that Mr Benediktov’s conditions of detention, the overriding factors having been overcrowding and his most probably having contracted hepatitis, had gone beyond the threshold tolerated by Article 3. The Court therefore found that there had been a violation of Article 3 on account of Mr Benediktov’s conditions of detention from 19 December 1999 to November 2001.
With particular regard to the overall structural problem of overcrowding in Russian detention facilities, and that it had not just been a problem affecting Mr Benediktov personally, the Court found that the Government had failed to provide evidence as to the existence of a domestic remedy by which the applicant could have complained about the general conditions of his detention and sought appropriate redress. Accordingly, the Court concluded that there had been a violation of Article 13 on account of the lack of an effective and accessible domestic remedy
Parties: Benediktov c/ Russia
Classification: Dignity - Art. 4 Torture - Inhuman punishments - Degrading punishments - Inhuman treatments - Degrading treatments - Justice - Art. 47 Right to an effective remedy before a tribunal