Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 07, 2020 (case CIUPERCESCU v. ROMANIA (No. 3))

Defense:ROMANIA (No. 3)
Resolution Date:January 07, 2020
SUMMARY

Violation of Article 3 - Prohibition of torture (Article 3 - Degrading treatment) (Substantive aspect);No violation of Article 3 - Prohibition of torture (Article 3 - Degrading treatment) (Substantive aspect)

 
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FOURTH SECTION

CASE OF CIUPERCESCU v. ROMANIA (No. 3)

(Applications nos. 41995/14 and 50276/15)

JUDGMENT

Art 3 •Degrading treatment • Conditions of detention • Prison overcrowding

Art 8 • Family life • Prisoners’ access to online communication with family members not guaranteed by the Convention • Short-term restriction of right provided for by domestic law • Availability of alternative means of communication

STRASBOURG

7 January 2020

This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Ciupercescu v. Romania (no. 3),

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Jon Fridrik Kjølbro, President,Iulia Antoanella Motoc,Branko Lubarda,Carlo Ranzoni,Stéphanie Mourou-Vikström,Jolien Schukking,Péter Paczolay, judges,and Andrea Tamietti, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 10 December 2019,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

  1. The case originated in two applications (nos. 41995/14 and 50276/15) against Romania lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Romanian national, Mr Dragoş Ciupercescu (“the applicant”), on 6 August 2014 and 11 November 2015 respectively.

  2. The applicant, who had been granted legal aid, was represented by Ms C. Boghină, a lawyer practising in Bucharest. The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, most recently Ms S.-M. Teodoroiu, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that his rights protected by Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention had not been respected by the prison authorities in Giurgiu and Jilava Prisons.

  4. On 9 February 2016 and 15 July 2016, respectively, notice of the applications was given to the Government.

    THE FACTS

  5. The applicant was born in 1971 and lives in Bucharest.

  6. In 2005 the Bucharest County Court sentenced the applicant to eighteen years’ imprisonment. He was detained in Giurgiu Prison between 21 January 2009 and 26 January 2015.

  7. On 26 January 2015 the applicant was transferred to Jilava Prison, where he stayed until 13 October 2016, when he was transferred to Ploieşti Prison.

  8. On 15 December 2016 the applicant was released on parole after serving eleven years of his sentence.

  9. On the basis of Law no. 254/2013 on the execution of sentences (“Law no. 254/2013”, see paragraph 53 below), the applicant complained to the relevant post-sentencing judge of the inhuman conditions of his detention in both prisons.

    (a) Giurgiu Prison

  10. As regards Giurgiu Prison, the applicant complained of overcrowding, limited access to cold and warm running water, bedbug and cockroach infestations in his cell, a lack of adequate ventilation and lighting, and a lack of heating for one month.

  11. The applicant lodged a complaint with the post-sentencing judge, claiming, inter alia, that the temperature in his cell was lower than 19˚C. On 12 November 2014 the judge allowed his complaint and ordered the prison authorities to ensure an appropriate minimum temperature of 19˚C in the cell. That decision was upheld by the Giurgiu District Court on 19 January 2015.

    (b) Jilava Prison

  12. The applicant complained of overcrowding and having no adequate place in which to have meals. He also maintained that because of the inadequate temperature in his cell, there were traces of damp on the walls. He also complained of the poor quality of the water, which contained worms and had a disagreeable smell and taste.

  13. By a judgment of 16 March 2015 the post-sentencing judge dismissed as unfounded a complaint by the applicant of a lack of personal space and medical treatment during the period between 20 and 23 February 2015. The applicant challenged that decision before the Bucharest District Court. On 20 April 2015 the court allowed the applicant’s complaint in part, holding that in cell E 5.26, where the applicant had been detained between 20 and 23 February 2015, he had had less than 4 square metres of personal space at his disposal.

  14. A similar complaint was lodged in respect of cell E 6.2, where the applicant had been placed between 21 January 2015 and 20 February 2015. By a judgment of 23 March 2015 the Bucharest District Court found that the personal space afforded to the applicant had been less than 4 square metres.

  15. On the basis of those judgments, the applicant filed another complaint with the post-sentencing judge, asking to be compensated for the ill-treatment which he had suffered on account of the poor conditions of his detention in Jilava Prison between 21 January and 23 March 2015.

  16. By a judgment of 3 December 2015 the Bucharest District Court dismissed the applicant’s claim, finding that the prison authorities were not at fault for that breach. The court also held that the period in question – going from 21 January until 23 March 2015 – had been short, and therefore the treatment during that period could not constitute such humiliating or degrading treatment for the applicant as to warrant financial compensation, especially having regard to the fact that he was serving his sentence under a semi-open regime.

  17. The court also considered that by subsequently placing the applicant in cells where he had had more than 4 square metres of personal space, the breaches complained of had been remedied. The court concluded by stating that the judgment in itself constituted an appropriate remedy for the non-pecuniary damage suffered by the applicant.

    (a) Giurgiu Prison

  18. The Government contended that while in Giurgiu Prison the applicant had had a minimum of 3.39 square metres of personal space at his disposal at all times. He had had access to warm water twice a week, while the conditions relating to ventilation, lighting and heating had been satisfactory.

    (b) Jilava Prison

  19. The Government indicated that as of 23 February 2015 the applicant had been placed in cells affording him at least 4.9 square metres of personal space. More specifically, the applicant had been detained:

    - from 23 February to 25 February 2015 in a cell measuring 9.76 square metres, occupied by only the applicant;

    - from 26 February to 11 August 2015 in a cell measuring 14.72 square metres, occupied by one to three prisoners;

    - from 12 August to 16 November 2015 in a cell measuring 13.50 square metres, occupied by one to two prisoners;

    - from 16 to 20 November in Jilava Hospital;

    - from 20 November 2015 to 10 March 2016 in a cell measuring 13.50 square metres, occupied by two prisoners;

    - from 11 March to 9 May 2016 in a cell measuring 42.39 square metres, occupied by four to seven prisoners.

  20. The Government also contended that the applicant had been serving his sentence under a semi-open regime, which meant that at the material time he had not been confined to his cell all the time; on the contrary, he had had free access to the courtyard between 8 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 6 p.m., and the doors to his cell had been open all day, with the exception of lunchtime, when his meals had been served in the cell.

  21. The Government further submitted medical documents certifying that the quality of the water was up to standard. These documents were issued on the basis of samples taken at the beginning of 2016.

  22. The Government contended that if any traces of damp appeared on the walls, prisoners needed to request their removal.

  23. The applicant complained that he had been exposed to passive smoking while being transported from Giurgiu Prison to the courts and while in the waiting rooms at the courts. He further stated that the prison vans had been full of fumes.

  24. According to the applicant’s medical record, he suffered from bronchial asthma (astm bronşic). He declared that he had been a non-smoker since 1 April 2010.

  25. Before the post-sentencing judge, the applicant complained of the conditions of transport to the court, claiming that he had been placed together with smokers. Those complaints were dismissed as unsubstantiated on 7 May 2014, the court indicating that smoking was not allowed in prison transport vehicles or in public places like court waiting rooms. A similar complaint was dismissed for similar reasons on 12 June 2014, the court holding that the technical inspections of the vehicles used for transporting the applicant were up to date.

  26. As regards the applicant’s complaints concerning passive smoking, the Government indicated that according to documents that had been submitted by the National Prison Administration, the applicant had declared himself to be either a smoker or a non-smoker, depending on the type of cell in which he had been placed. One recent declaration signed by the applicant on 26 January 2014 stated that he was a smoker. Furthermore, following a medical check-up completed on 19 October 2014, the relevant doctor had prescribed specific treatment for the applicant’s asthma and had recommended that he stop smoking. The applicant had even bought cigarettes from the prison shop.

  27. The Government argued that in any event smoking had been forbidden in prison transport vans and in all public places, including the waiting rooms at courts.

  28. The Government further noted that the vehicles used for transporting detainees had accommodated the number of detainees without exceeding their capacity, and had had proper ventilation. Also, the vehicle inspections were up to date. The duration of the journeys from the prison to the courts had never exceeded sixty minutes.

  29. On 27 April 2015 the applicant asked to be taken for an urgent dental examination, claiming that he had lost a filling and was in a lot of pain. He indicated that he was ready to pay for the consultation, and that he preferred to be taken to a private practice outside the prison.

  30. Since no specific steps were taken by the authorities, on 14 May 2015...

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