Zitieren als:
EGMR, Urteil vom 15.07.2002 - 47095/99 - M2251

EGMR verurteilt Russland wegen unmenschlicher Haftbedingungen.

Schlagwörter: Russland, Haftbedingungen, EMRK, Europäische Menschenrechtskonvention, menschenrechtswidrige Behandlung, Inhaftierung, Dauer
Normen: EMRK Art. 3; EMRK Art. 5 Abs. 3; EMRK Art. 6 Abs. 1



92. The applicant complained about his conditions of detention in the Magadan detention facility IZ-47/1. He invoked Article 3 of the Convention, which provides:

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

The applicant referred in particular to the overcrowding and insanitary conditions in his cell, as well as the length of the period during which he was detained in such conditions, which had an adverse effect on his physical health and caused humiliation and suffering. [...]

95. The Court recalls that, Article 3 of the Convention enshrines one of the most fundamental values of democratic society. It prohibits in absolute terms torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the circumstances and the victim's behaviour (see, for example, Labita v. Italy [GC], no 26772/95, § 119, ECHR 2000-IV).

The Court further recalls that, according to its case-law, ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of Article 3. The assessment of this minimum is relative; it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment, its physical and mental effects and, in some cases, the sex, age and state of health of the victim (see, among other authorities, the Ireland v. the United Kingdom judgment of 18 January 1978, Series A no. 25, p. 65, § 162).

The Court has considered treatment to be "inhuman" because, inter alia, is was premeditated, was applied for hours at a stretch and caused either actual bodily injury or intense physical and mental suffering. It has deemed treatment to be "degrading" because it was such as to arouse in the victims feeling of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing them (see, for example, Kudla v. Poland [GC], no. 30210/96, § 92, ECHR 2000-XI). In considering whether a particular form of treatment is "degrading" within the meaning of Article 3, the Court will have regard to whether its object is to humiliate and debase the person concerned and whether, as far as the consequences are concerned, it adversely affected his or her personality in a manner incompatible with Article 3 (see, for example, the Raninen v. Finland judgment of 16 December 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions, 1997-VIII, pp. 2821-22, § 55). However, the absence of any such purpose cannot conclusively rule out a finding of a violation of Article 3 (see, for example, Peers v. Greece, no. 28524/95, § 74, ECHR 2001-III). The suffering and humiliation involved must in any event go beyond that inevitable element of suffering or humiliation connected with a given form of legitimate treatment or punishment.

Measures depriving a person of his liberty may often involve such an element. Yet it cannot be said that detention on remand in itself raises an issue under Article 3 of the Convention. Nor can that Article be interpreted as laying down a general obligation to release a detainee on health grounds or to place him in a civil hospital to enable him to obtain specific medical treatment.

Nevertheless, under this provision the State must ensure that a person is detained in conditions which are compatible with respect for his human dignity, that the manner and method of the execution of the measure do not subject him to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention and that, given the practical demands of imprisonment, his health and well-being are adequately secured (see Kudla v. Poland cited above, §§ 92-94).

When assessing conditions of detention, account has to be taken of the cumulative effects of those conditions, as well as the specific allegations made by the applicant (see Dougoz v. Greece, no. 40907/98, § 46, ECHR 2001-II).

96. In the present case, the Court notes that the applicant was held in the Magadan detention facility IZ-47/1 from 29 June 1995 to 20 October 1999, and from 9 December 1999 to 26 June 2000. It recalls that, according to the generally recognised principles of international law, the Convention is binding on the Contracting States only in respect of facts occurring after its entry into force. The Convention entered into force in respect of Russia on 5 May 1998. However, in assessing the effect on the applicant of his conditions of detention, which were generally the same throughout his period of detention, both on remand and following his conviction, the Court may also have regard to the overall period during which he was detained, including the period prior to 5 May 1998.

97. The Court notes from the outset that the cell in which the applicant was detained measured between 17 m² (according to the applicant) and 20.8 m² (according to the Government). It was equipped with bunk-beds and was designed for 8 inmates. It may be questioned whether such accommodation could be regarded as attaining acceptable standards. In this connection the Court recalls that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment ("the CPT") has set 7 m² per prisoner as an approximate, desirable guideline for a detention cell (see the 2nd General Report - CPT/Inf (92) 3, § 43), i.e. 56 m² for 8 inmates.

Despite the fact that the cell was designed for 8 inmates, according to the applicant's submissions to the Court the usual number of inmates in his cell throughout his detention was between 18 and 24 persons. In his application for release from custody of 27 December 1996, the applicant stated that there were 21 inmates in his 8-bed cell. In a similar application of 8 June 1999, he referred to 18 inmates (see paragraphs 43 and 73 above).

The Court notes that the Government, for their part, acknowledged that, due to the general overcrowding of the detention facility, each bed in the cells was used by 2 or 3 inmates. Meanwhile, they appear to disagree with the applicant as to the number of inmates. In their submission there were 11 or more inmates in the applicant's cell at any given time and that normally the number of inmates was 14. However, the Government did not submit any evidence to substantiate their contention. According to the applicant, it was only in March-April 2000 that the number of inmates was reduced to 11.

The Court does not find it necessary to resolve the disagreement between the Government and the applicant on this point. The figures submitted suggest that that any given time there was 0.9 - 1,9 m² of space per inmate in the applicant's cell. Thus, in the Court's view, the cell was continuously, severely overcrowded. This state of affairs in itself raises an issue under Article 3 of the Convention.

Moreover, on account of the acute overcrowding, the inmates in the applicant's cell had to sleep taking turns, on the basis of eight-hour shifts of sleep per prisoner. It appears from his request for release from custody on 16 June 1999, that at that time he was sharing his bed with two other inmates (see paragraph 74 above). Sleeping conditions were further aggravated by the constant lighting in the cell, as well as the general commotion and noise from the large number of inmates. The resulting deprivation of sleep must have constituted a heavy physical and psychological burden on the applicant.

The Court further observes the absence of adequate ventilation in the applicant's cell which held an excessive number of inmates and who apparently were permitted to smoke in the cell. Although the applicant was allowed outdoor activity for one or two hours a day, the rest of the time he was confined to his cell, with a very limited space for himself and a stuffy atmosphere.

98. The Court next notes that the applicant's cell was infested with pests and that during his detention no anti-infestation treatment was effected in his cell. The Government conceded that infestation of detention facilities with insects was a problem, and referred to the 1989 ministerial guideline obliging detention facilities to take disinfection measures. However, it does not appear that this was done in the applicant's cell.

Throughout his detention the applicant contracted various skin diseases and fungal infections, in particular during the years 1996, 1997 and 1999, necessitating recesses in the trial. While it is true that the applicant received treatment for these diseases, their recurrence suggests that the very poor conditions in the cell facilitating their propagation remained unchanged.

The Court also notes with grave concern that the applicant was detained on occasions with persons suffering from syphilis and tuberculosis, although the Government stressed that contagion was prevented.

99. An additional aspect of the crammed and insanitary conditions described above was the toilet facilities. A partition measuring 1,1 meters in height separated the lavatory pan in the corner of the cell from a wash stand next to it, but not from the living area. There was no screen at the entrance to the toilet. The applicant had thus to use the toilet in the presence of other inmates and be present while the toilet was being used by his cellmates. The photographs provided by the Government show a filthy, dilapidated cell and toilet area, with no real privacy.

Whilst the Court notes with satisfaction the major improvements that have apparently been made to the area of the Magadan detention facility where the applicant's cell was located (as shown in the video recording which they submitted to the Court), this does not detract from the wholly unacceptable conditions which the applicant clearly had to endure at the material time.

100. The applicant's conditions of detention were also a matter of concern for the trial court examining his case. In April and June 1999 it requested medical expert opinions on the effect of the conditions of detention on his mental and physical health after nearly 4 years of detention in order to determine whether he was unfit to take part in the proceedings and whether he should be hospitalised (see paragraphs 71 and 76 above). Even though the experts answered both questions in the negative, the Court notes their conclusions of July 1999, listing the various medical conditions from which the applicant suffered, i.e. neurocirculatory dystonia, asthenoneurotic syndrome, chronic gastroduodenitis, a fungal infection on his feet, hands and groin and mycosis (see paragraph 30 above).

101. The Court accepts that in the present case there is no indication that there was a positive intention of humiliating or debasing the applicant. However, although the question whether the purpose of the treatment was to humiliate or debase the victim is a factor to be taken into account, the absence of any such purpose cannot exclude a finding of violation of Article 3 (see Peers v. Greece cited above). It considers that the conditions of detention, which the applicant had to endure for approximately 4 years and 10 months, must have caused him considerable mental suffering, diminishing his human dignity and arousing in him such feelings as to cause humiliation and debasement.

102. In the light of the above, the Court finds the applicant's conditions of detention, in particular the severely overcrowded and insanitary environment and its detrimental effect on the applicant's health and wellbeing, combined with the length of the period during which the applicant was detained in such conditions, amounted to degrading treatment.

103. Accordingly, there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.


104. The applicant complained that his lengthy pre-trial detention violated Article 5 § 3 of the Convention, which provides as follows:

"Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be ... entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial." [...]

(b) The Court's assessment

(i) Principles established by the Court's case-law

114. The Court recalls that the question of whether or not a period of detention is reasonable cannot be assessed in the abstract. Whether it is reasonable for an accused to remain in detention must be examined in each case according to its special features. Continued detention can be justified in a given case only if there are specific indications of a genuine requirement of public interest which, notwithstanding the presumption of innocence, outweighs the rule of respect for individual liberty laid down in Article 5 of the Convention (see, among other authorities, Kudla v. Poland cited above, § 110).

It falls in the first place to the national judicial authorities to ensure that, in a given case, the pre-trial detention of an accused person does not exceed a reasonable time. To this end they must, paying due regard to the principle of the presumption of innocence, examine all the facts arguing for or against the existence of the above-mentioned requirement of public interest justifying a departure from the rule in Article 5, and must set them out in their decisions on the applications for release. It is essentially on the basis of the reasons given in these decisions, and any well-documented facts stated by the applicant in his appeals, that the Court is called upon to decide whether or not there has been a violation of Article 5 § 3 (see, for example, Labita v. Italy cited above, § 152).

The persistence of a reasonable suspicion that the person arrested has committed an offence is a condition sine qua non for the lawfulness of the continued detention, but after a certain lapse of time it no longer suffices. The Court must then establish whether the other grounds given by the judicial authorities continued to justify the deprivation of liberty. Where such grounds were "relevant" and "sufficient", the Court must also be satisfied that the national authorities displayed "special diligence" in the conduct of the proceedings. The complexity and special characteristics of the investigation are factors to be considered in this respect (see, for example, the Scott v. Spain judgment of 18 December 1996, Reports 1996-VI, pp. 2399-2400, § 74, and I.A. v. France judgment of 23 September 1998, Reports 1998-VII, p. 2978, § 102).

(ii) Application of the above principles to the present case

(a) Grounds for detention

115. During the period covered by the Court's jurisdiction ratione temporis the Magadan City Court, in refusing to release the applicant, relied on the gravity of the charges against him and the danger of his obstructing the establishment of the truth while at liberty (see paragraph 69 above). The Court observes that similar grounds had been cited by the City Court earlier - on 27 December 1996 and 8 August 1997 - to justify the applicant's continued detention (see paragraphs 43 and 46 above).

It further notes that the principal reason for the decision to place the applicant in detention on remand on 29 June 1995 was that he had obstructed the investigation of the case by refusing to turn over certain bank documents necessary for the investigation, he had brought pressure to bear on witnesses and had allegedly tampered with the evidence. The decision also had regard to the gravity of the charges.

116. The Court recalls that the existence of a strong suspicion of the involvement of a person in serious offences, while constituting a relevant factor, cannot alone justify a long period of pre-trial detention (see, for example, the Scott v. Spain judgment cited above, p. 2401, § 78). As regards the other ground relied on by the Magadan City Court in prolonging the applicant's detention, namely the danger of obstructing the examination of the case, the Court notes that, unlike the order of the investigator of 29 June 1995, the City Court did not mention any factual circumstances underpinning its conclusions, which were identical both in 1996, 1997 and 1999. There is no reference in its rulings to any factor capable of showing that the risk relied on actually persisted during the relevant period.

117. The Court accepts that the interference with the investigation, along with the suspicion that the applicant had committed the offences with which he was charged, could initially suffice to warrant the applicant's detention. However, as the proceedings progressed and the collection of the evidence became complete that ground inevitably became less relevant.

118. In sum, the Court finds that the reasons relied on by the authorities to justify the applicant's detention, although relevant and sufficient initially, lost this character as time passed.

(b) Conduct of the proceedings

119. As regards the duration of the criminal investigation, the Court notes the findings of the domestic courts that the case was not particularly complex and that the investigation of the case had been of poor quality contributing to a delay in the proceedings (see paragraphs 69 and 80 above).

The Court finds no reason to come to a different conclusion. It also observes that, according to the domestic courts, the investigators had unjustifiably attempted to increase the number of counts in the indictment (see paragraph 80 above) - a reproach which is borne out by the fact that only one of the nine charges against the applicant was found to be substantiated in the judgment of the Magadan City Court on 3 August 1999.

120. As regards the subsequent judicial proceedings, the Court observes that there were significant delays in the proceedings before the Magadan City Court. The trial, which had began on 11 November 1996, was adjourned on 7 May 1997 due to the removal from office of the presiding judge. It did not resume until 15 April 1999, although certain procedural steps were taken in July-August 1997 (the appointment of a new judge and scheduling of a hearing), May and July 1998 (the transfer of the case to another court), November 1998 (the scheduling of a hearing), January and March 1998 (decisions on the need for further investigation).

While it is true that the hearing scheduled for 8 August 1997 had to be postponed on account of the absence of the applicant's lawyer and the applicant objected to the transfer of his case to another court - a move destined to expedite the proceedings - the Court finds that the applicant did not substantially contribute to the length of the proceedings between the two trial periods, where there was no progress in the case.

It is thus apparent that the protracted proceedings are attributable neither to the complexity of the case nor the conduct of the applicant. Having regard to the characteristics of the investigation and the substantial delays in the court proceedings, the Court considers that the authorities did not act with all due expedition.

(c) Conclusion

121. Against the above background, the Court finds that the period spent by the applicant in detention pending trial exceeded a "reasonable time". There has thus been a violation of Article 5 § 3 of the Convention.


122. The applicant complained that the criminal charges against him were not determined within a reasonable time, as required by Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, the relevant part of which reads as follows:

"In the determination of ... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] tribunal established by law."

A. Period to be taken into consideration

123. The applicant submitted that the period to be taken into account began on 8 February 1995, with the institution of the criminal proceedings against him, and ended on 31 March 2000, when the Magadan City Court delivered its second judgment in the case.

The Government contended that the period to be considered lasted from the transmission of the applicant's case to the Magadan City Court on 6 February 1996 until the pronouncement of its first judgment on 3 August 1999.

124. The Court recalls that the period to be taken into consideration in determining the length of criminal proceedings begins with the day on which a person is "charged" within the autonomous and substantive meaning to be given to that term (see, among other authorities, the Corigliano v. Italy judgment of 10 December 1982, Series A no. 57, p. 13, § 34, and the Imbriosca v. Switzerland judgment of 24 November 1993, Series A no. 275, p. 13, § 36). It ends with the day on which a charge is finally determined or the proceedings are discontinued.

The period under consideration in the present case thus began on 8 February 1995, when the applicant became a suspect on charges of misappropriation. As regards the end of the period, the Court notes that, following the decision to discontinue the remaining charges on 29 September 1999, after the City Court judgment of 3 August 1999, a new charge was brought against the applicant on 30 September 1999 on the basis of the same set of facts. It observes that the new charge was part of the original criminal case no. 48529, which had been initiated on 8 September 1995. In these circumstances and taking account of the timing of the new charge, the Court finds that the period to be considered ended on 31 March 2000, when the City Court delivered its judgment determining the final charge.

The period under consideration, i.e. from 8 February 1995 until 31 March 2000, amounted thus to a total of 5 years, 1 month and 23 days for, in effect, one level of jurisdiction, despite numerous ancillary proceedings. While its jurisdiction ratione temporis only covers the period after the entry into force of the Convention with respect to Russia on 5 May 1998, the Court may take into account the state of the proceedings existing on that date (see, among other authorities, mutatis mutandis, the Yagci and Sargin v. Turkey judgment of 8 June 1995, Series A no. 319-A, p. 16, § 40).

B. Reasonableness of the length of the proceedings

125. The Court recalls that the reasonableness of the length of the proceedings is to be assessed in the light of the particular circumstances of the case, regard being had to the criteria laid down in the Court's case-law, in particular the complexity of the case, the applicant's conduct and the conduct of the competent authorities. On the latter point, what is at stake for the applicant has also to be taken into consideration (see, among many other authorities, Kudla v. Poland cited above, § 124). [...]

2. The Court's assessment

(a) Complexity of the case

128. The Court notes that the proceedings in issue, in which the applicant was the only defendant, concerned financial offences with considerable evidence, involving the questioning of a number witnesses. It observes, however, that from 7 May 1997, when the trial was adjourned, until 15 April 1999, when it resumed, no investigative measures were undertaken.

The Court observes the finding of the domestic court that the case was not so complex as to justify the delays in the proceedings (see paragraph 69 above).

It was thus not the complexity of the case or the requirements of the investigation which accounted for the length of the proceedings.

(b) Conduct of the applicant

129. The Court notes that throughout the domestic court proceedings the applicant filed numerous requests in connection with his case, both during his trial and between hearings. It recalls that Article 6 does not require a person charged with a criminal offence to co-operate actively with the judicial authorities (see, for example, the Dobbertin v. France judgment of 25 February 1993, Series A no. 256-D, p. 117, § 43).

It observes that the applicant's applications lodged during the trial as of 15 April 1999 were found by the trial court to have been obstructive to the examination of his case. However, there is no indication that during other trial periods, i.e. from 11 November 1996 to 7 May 1997, and from 20 December 1999 to 31 March 2000, the applicant's behaviour could be said to have been in any way dilatory.

As regards the requests lodged by the applicant between hearings, the Court notes that they related mainly to the prolonged failure of the trial court to examine his case. The Court cannot find that these requests contributed to slowing down the proceedings, in particular as they remained largely without effect. While it is true that in order to expedite the proceedings the applicant's case was transferred to another court, the applicant cannot be criticised for objecting to it after the transfer had resulted in no progress in his case.

The Court also notes that once, on 8 August 1997, a hearing had to be postponed as the applicant's lawyer had failed to appear.

130. The Court considers that, whilst the applicant can be held responsible for certain delays, his conduct did not contribute substantially to the length of the proceedings.

(c) Conduct of the national authorities

131. As already mentioned above, there were significant delays in the domestic proceedings, which could not be explained by the complexity of the case or the conduct of the applicant. In particular, the case lay practically dormant before the trial court for nearly two years, i.e. from 7 May 1997 to 15 April 1999.

132. The Court observes that throughout the proceedings the applicant was kept in custody - a fact which required particular diligence on the part of the courts dealing with the case to administer justice expeditiously.

133. The Court further notes that, following the judgment of the Magadan City Court on 3 August 1999 and the decision to discontinue the remaining charges on 29 September 1999, the authorities brought a new charge against the applicant on the basis of the same set of facts, thereby contributing even further to the length of the proceedings, which had already lasted for over four and a half years at the court of first instance.

134. It considers that the authorities failed in their duty of special diligence, particularly after the entry into force of the Convention on 5 May 1998.

3. Conclusion

135. Having regard to the above background, the Court considers that the length of the proceedings did not satisfy the "reasonable time" requirement. Accordingly, there has been a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. [...]