Case of European Court of Human Rights, January 20, 2011 (case El Shennawy v. France)

Resolution Date:January 20, 2011

Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 137

January 2011

El Shennawy v. France - 51246/08

Judgment 20.1.2011 [Section V]

Article 3

Degrading treatment

Repeated, video-taped, full body searches by masked security-force personnel: violation

Facts – The applicant was sentenced to several terms of imprisonment, including one imposed following an Assize Court trial held from 9 to 18 April 2008. In view of his dangerousness, exceptionally tight security arrangements were put in place concerning, for instance, the conditions of his temporary removal from prison and his supervision during the hearings. The applicant was placed under the supervision of officers of the regional security and intervention force (ERIS) throughout the trial. He claimed that officers wearing masks at all times had subjected him to a series of particularly thorough strip-searches, including visual examinations of the anus during which they used force if he refused to bend over and cough. The searches were video‑recorded and usually took place in the presence of an officer from the national police intervention force (GIPN). The applicant lodged several appeals against the measures, without success.

Law – Article 3: According to the Conseil d’Etat, the applicant had undergone a full body search between four and eight times a day. The searches had gone beyond the normal routine applicable at the relevant time. Full body searches were carried out mainly on high-risk prisoners like the applicant, who had belonged to that category since 1977. The applicant’s history and criminal background had justified substantial security measures when he was being taken from prison to the Assize Court. He had undergone a series of searches by the various law-enforcement officials supervising him – prison officers and police officers – although the Ministry of Justice recommended avoiding successive searches of this kind, which it considered to be unwarranted particularly where a prisoner...

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