Limited cell space less than 3 sq.m. per person, constitutes degrading treatment. Violation of Article 13 for lack of effective remedy
Lautaru and Seed v. Greece 23.07.2020 (ap. no. 29760/15)
Conditions of detention, supervising prοsdecutor and actual appeal.
The applicants were detained in various detention facilities in a limited space of less than 3 sq.m. per person, due to overcrowding in those prisons. They also complained about unsanitary conditions, limited and inadequate meals and lack of activities. The supervising prosecutor was not aware of their complaints. The director of the prison did nothing to restore the inadequate detention conditions.
Strasbourg reiterated its established case law on cell space and the requirement of at least 3 sq.m. per person in the cell.
In the present case, the ECtHR found that the applicants were detained in a cell where the space allotted to them was only 2.1 sq.m. per detainee. It held that the minimum requirements of Article 3 of the Convention had not been met, so that their detention in a confined space constituted inhuman and degrading treatment.
The ECtHR also found that the supervising prosecutor was not aware of the inadequate detention conditions, and the store manager did nothing to improve the conditions. It also found that the right to complain to the Greek Ombudsman (Law 4282/2014) did not constitute a sufficient remedy. In the absence of any other appropriate remedy, the ECtHR found that there had been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 of the ECHR.
It awarded the applicants EUR 11,000 and EUR 14,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,000 in respect of costs and expenses.
The applicants, Alexandru Lautaru and Osman Seed, are Romanian and Sudanese nationals who
were born in 1990 and 1981. Mr Lautaru was held in Malandrino Prison from 7 January 2014 to 19
June 2015 then transferred to Korydallos Prison. Mr Seed was held in Malandrino Prison from 3 May
2010 to 19 June 2018 then transferred to Tiryntha prison.
The case concerned the conditions of the applicants’ detention in Malandrino Prison.
On 5 May 2014 Mr Lautaru and Mr Seed, together with a third inmate, complained to the
supervising prosecutor of the prison, requesting urgent measures, in particular to relieve the
overcrowding problem and improve the conditions of detention.
The Government indicated that the official capacity of the prison was 440 inmates and that in 2015
the prison population came to 500.
Relying on Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and 13 (right to an effective
remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicants complained about the
conditions of their detention in Malandrino Prison.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT…
The general principles of prison overcrowding are summarized in Khlaifia et al. against Italy. Indeed, the extremely limited space of a cell is a particularly important aspect to consider in order to determine whether the conditions of detention in question were ‘degrading’ within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention.
The Court recently confirmed that the requirement of 3m² of space per detainee (including space occupied by furniture but not that occupied by toilets) in a collective cell should remain the relevant minimum standard for the purposes of assessing detention conditions in relation to Article 3 of the Convention.
In the present case, the Court noted that in his report of 3 July 2019, the store manager pointed out that a space in the main corridor, originally designed for a guest room, had been converted due to overcrowding into a ten-bed room with an area of 40 m², including 10 m² for kitchenette and 8 m² for toilets. The Court considered that the area to be taken into account in determining the applicants’ personal space was that of the bedroom from which the toilet was to be removed, thus having a total area of 32 m². As a result, the personal space of each detainee, and therefore of the applicants when the room was occupied by a total of 10 people, amounted to 3.2 m².
However, due to overcrowding, the room sometimes accommodated 15 inmates. Therefore, during these periods five detainees, including the first applicant, did not have a bed. The personal space of each detainee, when the room accommodated 15 people, was then reduced to 2.1 m². The Court also noted that, according to the Government, the room was equipped with a table and ten chairs, which further reduced the personal space.
The Court also noted that the government acknowledged that in 2015 the prison population was 500 detainees and that for short periods in 2014-2015, Room I in the main corridor housed up to 15 detainees. However, the Government did not specify what those short periods were in order to enable the Court to determine their duration and frequency.
In their application to the supervising prosecutor of the prison, the first applicant stated that he had been sleeping on the floor for 1 year and 4 months.
The Court also noted the applicants’ allegation of the small quantity and poor quality of the food provided, of the inability to obtain food from the canteen on their own money and that for a long time between meals they received only one cup of tea for breakfast.
The Court noted that the first applicant was detained in Room I from 7 January 2014 to 19 June 2015. The second applicant was detained in various cells and rooms from 3 May 2010 to 19 June 2018 and, more specifically, in room I from June 20, 2013 to June 19, 2018.
In the light of the foregoing, the Court has held that both the first applicant, throughout his detention, and the second applicant, from 20 June 2013 and at least until 16 June 2015, the date of referral to the Court, lived in conditions contrary to Article 3 regarding overcrowding, as well as certain other aspects of their detention, in particular as regards food, cleanliness and general condition of their rooms and the absence of recreational or sporting activities outside the cell. In addition, as regards the second applicant and the period of his detention before 20 June 2013 in various cells, the Court noted that, in its observations, the applicant was not mentioned in the CPT’s report and did not provide any additional information about them. conditions of his detention in these cells.
Consequently, a violation of Article 3 of the Convention was found.
Pursuant to Article 13 of the Convention, the applicants also complained of a lack of effective redress when they complained about the conditions of their detention. They relied on the rich case law of the Court on this issue concerning Greece.
In particular, in the present case, the Court noted that it was not the supervising prosecutor himself who took evidence from the applicants but the prison manager. With regard to the latter’s alleged proposal to place the applicants in a cell where conditions were more favorable, the Court considered that it had doubts as to the possibility of success of this proposal in view of the prevailing overcrowding in the detention center. In addition, the Court found it useful to recall that the supervising prosecutor chaired the board, whose jurisdiction extends to various aspects of the issues that arise. In the court’s view, a request to the supervising prosecutor would amount to an invitation to investigate facts or allegations about detention conditions for which he is also responsible.
With regard to the referral to the Greek Omdudsman in accordance with Law 4228/2014, the Court had already ruled that it was not an effective solution insofar as these recommendations were not binding on the authorities. There has therefore been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 of the Convention.
It also found a violation of Article 3 of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 of the Convention.
Fair satisfaction: The ECtHR awarded EUR 11,000 to Mr Lautaru and EUR 14,000 to Mr Seed for non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,000 to the applicants jointly for costs and expenses.