Denial of a of a prisoner’s request to attend his brother’s funeral violated the right to family life

JUDGMENT

Vetsev v. Bulgaria  02.05.2019 (no. 54558/15)

see here

SUMMARY

Funeral of a prisoner’s brother. The refusal of the Bulgarian authorities to allow a prisoner to attend his brother’s funeral. The Court considered that the Bulgarian authorities had rejected the claim on the grounds that this was not provided for under national law, without its decision being based on a detailed examination of the individual circumstances and without balancing the interests at stake, namely the right to respect for private and the applicant’s family life, on the one hand,and the need to prevent disorder and crime on the other.  Therefore, the Court considered that it had not been shown that interference with the applicant’s right to respect for the private and family life was necessary in a democratic society. Infringement of Article 8 of the ECHR

PRINCIPAL FACTS

The applicant, Valter Stratsimirov Vetsev, is a Bulgarian national who was born in 1973 and lives in
Sofia.

On 6 February 2015 Mr Vetsev was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in Pazardzhik – a town
about 120 km from Sofia – on suspicion of theft. In August 2015 he was committed for trial.

On 18 September 2015 Mr Vetsev was informed that his brother had died. He immediately applied
to the court for leave to attend the funeral, which was due to be held in Sofia on 26 September
2015. At a hearing on 25 September 2015, the court initially authorised the transfer under escort of
Mr Vetsev. However, as the regional security service of the Ministry of Justice indicated that, under
the statutory texts, it could only provide transport under escort for detainees for the purpose of
enabling them to appear before the judicial authorities, the court set aside its order and refused to
grant Mr Vetsev’s request.

THE DECISION OF THE COURT

Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life)

The Court reiterated its previous finding that a refusal to allow a detainee to leave prison in order to
attend the funeral of a relative amounted to an interference in his or her right to respect for private
and family life.

It also specified that Article 8 of the Convention did not guarantee a detained person
an unconditional right to leave to attend a funeral of a relative. Thus, it was for the national
authorities to examine the merits of each request. Nonetheless, the Court exerted its supervisory
role over the contested measure from the perspective of the rights guaranteed by the Convention.
In assessing the necessity of such a measure, the Court had held that the relevant factors included
the detainee’s dangerousness and his or her conduct, the nature of the offence in question, the
guarantees of a return to prison and the possibility of alternative solutions in order to accede to the
individual’s request.

In the present case, the Court noted that domestic law provided for the possibility of granting leave
only to persons who were imprisoned in execution of a sentence, and that travel under escort was
limited to transfers between judicial institutions, which implied that an individual placed in pre-trial
detention could not benefit from one of those options in order to attend a relative’s funeral. Thus,
the Bulgarian authorities had refused Mr Vetsev’s request on the ground that no such possibility was
foreseen in domestic law, without basing their decision on a detailed individual examination of his
request and without weighing up the interests at stake, namely, the applicant’s right to respect for
his private and family life on the one hand and the need to prevent disorder or crime on the other.
In consequence, the Court considered that it had not been shown that the interference in
Mr Vetsev’s right to private and family life had been necessary in a democratic society. It followed
that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The Court held that Bulgaria was to pay Mr Vetsev 1,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary
damage(echrcaselaw.com editing).


ECHRCaseLaw

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