Failure to administer special diet to a ill prisoner constitutes degrading treatment and violates the ECHR.
Ebedin Abi v. Turkey 13.03.2018 (no. 10839/09)
Prisons and prisoners with diabetes health issues. Providing meals incompatible with the diet prescribed by doctors. No measures for his well-being and health. The government’s remark that the prisoner could eart and pay at the canteen or order a special diet was rejected. The state of health of the prisoner should not impose greater financial burden on him than the burden on prisoners who are healthy. A situation that entailed costs for the applicant was incompatible with the duty of the State to organize its prison system in a manner that respects the human dignity of the prisoners. Violation for inhuman and degrading treatment.
The applicant, Ebedin Abi, is a Turkish national who was born in 1970. He is currently detained in the F-type prison in Kırıkkale (Turkey).
Mr Abi suffers from type 2 diabetes (abnormally high blood glucose levels) and from coronary artery disease. On the basis of several medical reports Mr Abi asked the management of Erzurum Prison, where he was detained from April 2008 to March 2009, to provide him with meals appropriate to the diet prescribed for him by doctors, comprising a high intake of poultry and vegetables and a low intake of beef and saturated fats. When the management refused his request he applied to the domestic courts. In January 2009 his application was rejected by a final ruling of the Assize Court, on the grounds that the daily allowance in respect of each prisoner was insufficient to allow more than one type of meal to be provided each day, and that Mr Abi was being offered meals free of fats, salt and spices.
According to the menus published for the weeks beginning 24 February 2009 and 3 March 2009, the meals on offer were based mainly on beef, fried foods and carbohydrates. Poultry was offered once a week and there were few fresh vegetables on the menu.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment)
Firstly, the Court noted that the authorities had omitted to take the necessary measures to protect Mr Abi’s health.
In view of the daily allowance per prisoner, the prison had in fact been unable to provide meals that met the specific dietary requirements of prisoners with health problems, notwithstanding the relevant medical prescriptions. Under the domestic rules, prisoners with health problems were entitled to the foodstuffs prescribed by the prison doctors, and the daily allowance in respect of such prisoners was to be determined on the basis of the corresponding medical prescriptions (Official Gazette no. 25978 of 26 October 2005 and no. 26131 of 6 April 2006). In the Court’s view, the refusal to ensure that Mr Abi’s diet conformed to the medical prescriptions issued for him could in no way be justified on economic grounds, given that the law in force at the relevant time provided for a separate budget for prisoners with health problems. In that connection the Court noted that neither the public prosecutor nor the Assize Court had sought to ascertain whether the prison management had approached the competent authorities with a view to obtaining an increase in the daily allowance in order to meet the dietary needs of prisoners in poor health, as provided for by the law.
Furthermore, the Government argued that Mr Abi could have procured meals compatible with his diet by ordering them from an outside supplier or eating in the prison canteen. Had he done so, the applicant himself would have had to pay the cost of his meals. In the Court’s view, Mr Abi’s state of health should not impose a heavier economic burden on him than that borne by prisoners in good health. The Court therefore took the view that a situation entailing costs for the applicant was incompatible with the State’s duty to organise its prison system in such a way as to respect prisoners’ human dignity, notwithstanding the logistical and financial difficulties.
Secondly, with regard to the alleged deterioration in Mr Abi’s health as a result of his inability to follow the diet prescribed by doctors, the Court observed that Mr Abi had made use of all the available remedies in order to raise before the national authorities his complaints concerning the incompatibility of the meals served with his diet and the deterioration in his health allegedly linked to his food intake. The national authorities had failed to respond adequately to Mr Abi’s repeated requests.
Moreover, in view of the fact that persons in detention were unable to obtain medical treatment whenever they saw fit and in a hospital of their own choosing, the Court considered that the domestic authorities should have arranged for a specialist to study the standard menu offered by the prison and for Mr Abi to undergo a medical examination at the same time specifically geared to his complaints. In reality, the authorities had not sought to establish whether the food being provided to Mr Abi was suitable or whether the failure to adhere to the diet prescribed for him had had an adverse impact on his health, bearing in mind also that he had been taken to the emergency department of Erzurum Hospital on 24 November 2008 suffering from chest pains. Furthermore, the Government had not provided any specific details regarding the impact of the prison’s policy on Mr Abi’s health, nor had the domestic authorities addressed the issue.
Hence, in failing to act, the domestic authorities had not taken the measures necessary for the protection of Mr Abi’s health and well-being. They had thus failed to ensure that the applicant’s conditions of detention were adequate and respected his human dignity, in breach of Article 3 of the Convention. There had therefore been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.
Article 41 (just satisfaction)
The Court held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 1,150 in respect of costs and expenses (echrcaselaw.com editing).