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Case Law 50550/06 (10/06/2008)

Type: Judgment

Authority: European Authorities: European Court of human rights

Date: 06/10/2008

Subject: The Court held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights because the applicant’s conditions of detention were not appropriate to his state of health. Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), the applicant alleged that keeping him in prison constituted inhuman treatment. Article 3 The Court observed that the applicant, who has been unable to walk since 1987 and fractured his thigh bone in April 2006, was confined to a wheelchair. He had no personal autonomy whatsoever and stated that he was obliged to spend every day in bed, which has not been disputed by the Government. He was now 67 years old, suffered from heart disease and a failing metabolism, diabetes, deteriorating muscles, hypertrophy in the prostate gland and depression. The expert instructed by the applicant concluded that his state of health was incompatible with detention in prison, given that he required round-the-clock care. That opinion appears to have been confirmed by the medical report of 6 June 2006 recommending that the applicant be moved to a suitably equipped treatment centre. In the light of those expert opinions, on 16 June 2006 the Rome court responsible for the execution of sentences granted the applicant detention at home, stating that the care he required was unavailable in prison and that continuing to deprive him of his freedom in a prison establishment would have amounted to inhuman treatment. The Court does not see any reason to reconsider that conclusion. The Court also noted that the decision to allow the applicant to serve his sentence outside the prison had been set aside on 8 September 2006 on the ground that the applicant did not have a home with facilities adapted to his condition. Consequently, the applicant was kept in a prison. The Court did not overlook the efforts made by the Italian authorities, which had placed the applicant in a prison that was equipped with a clinical centre and was architecturally better suited to the applicant’s condition (Parma Prison). Furthermore, in both prisons the applicant had undergone numerous medical tests designed to treat his failing metabolism and had had physiotherapy sessions. However, the absence of an intention on the part of the national authorities to humiliate or debase the person concerned did not definitively rule out a finding of a violation of Article 3. In the applicant’s case the requirement, underscored by the Rome court responsible for the execution of sentences, that the applicant not be detained in a prison had remained a dead letter for reasons that could not be attributed to the applicant. In the Court’s view, in circumstances such as these the State should have either transferred the applicant to a better-equipped prison in order to avoid any risk of inhuman treatment or deferred execution of a sentence that had become tantamount to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention. In its decision setting aside the measure ordering detention at home however, the Rome court responsible for the execution of sentences had failed to take that possibility into account. Accordingly, the applicant had continued to be detained in Regina Coeli Prison, which the court responsible for the execution of sentences had deemed inappropriate to his state of health. It was not until 23 September 2007 that he had been transferred to Parma Prison, which was equipped with facilities that, according to the Ministry of Justice, could cater for his reduced mobility. The Court considered that it did not have sufficient information to enable it to give an opinion on the quality of those facilities or, more generally, the conditions of the applicant’s detention in Parma. It confined itself to observing that keeping the applicant in Regina Coeli Prison in the circumstances referred to above must inevitably have placed him in a situation that aroused sufficiently strong feelings of anxiety, inferiority and humiliation to amount to “inhuman or degrading treatment”. Accordingly, there had been a violation of Article 3.

Parties: Scoppola c/ Italia

Classification: Dignity - Art. 4 Inhuman punishments - Degrading punishments - Inhuman treatments - Degrading treatments