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ECtHR factsheet – detention conditions and treatment of prisoners


Forced feeding and compulsory medical intervention

Nevmerzhitsky v. Ukraine (54825/00)
05.04.2005 (Chamber)

Yevgen Nevmerzhitsky spent two years and ten month in pre-trial detention between 1997 and 2000. He contracted various skin diseases in prison and his health significantly deteriorated. His detention was extended five times and his request for release was rejected even though the maximum statutory period of permitted detention had expired. In the course of his detention, Mr Nevmerzhitsky went on hunger strike on a number of occasions and was subjected to forced feeding.

The Court found a violation of Article 3. A measure such as forced feeding could not be considered degrading if it was necessary to save a person’s life. However, the Government had not demonstrated that force-feeding had been medically necessary in Mr Nevmerzhitsky’s case. The Court therefore concluded that this measure had been arbitrary; procedural safeguards had not been respected in the face of his conscious refusal to take food. Moreover, the manner of forced feeding, involving handcuffs, a mouth-widener and a special rubber tube inserted into the food channel, had amounted to torture.

(Hygienic) condition of cells

Kalashnikov v. Russia (47095/99)
15.7.2002 (Chamber)

Valeriy Kalashnikov spent almost five years in pre-trial detention, charged with embezzlement, before he was acquitted in 2000. He complained about the conditions in the detention centre where he was held, in particular that his cell was overcrowded – on 17 square meters 24 inmates were held –, that being surrounded by heavy smokers, he was forced to become a passive smoker, that it was impossible to sleep properly as the TV and cell light were never turned off, that the cell was overrun with cockroaches and ants, and that he contracted a variety of skin diseases and fungal infections, losing his toenails and some of his fingernails as a consequence.

Although the Court accepted that there had been no indication of a positive intention to humiliate Mr Kalashnikov, it considered that the conditions of detention had amounted to degrading treatment in violation of Article 3. In particular the severely overcrowded and insanitary environment and its detrimental effect on the applicant’s health and well-being, combined with the length of the period during which the applicant was detained in such conditions, contributed to this finding. As regards the overcrowding, the Court emphasised that the CPT had set 7 m² per prisoner as an approximate, desirable guideline for a detention cell.

Modârcă v. Moldova (14437/05)
10.5.2007 (Chamber)

In 2005, Vladimir Modârcă, who suffers from osteoporosis, spent nine months of his pre-trial detention in a 10m² cell with three other detainees. The cell had very limited access to daylight; it was not properly heated or ventilated; electricity and water supplies were periodically discontinued. Mr Modârcă was not provided with bed linen or prison clothes; the dining table was close to the toilet, and the daily expenses for food were limited to EUR 0.28 for each detainee. The CPT had reported that the food was “repulsive and virtually inedible”, following a visit to the prison in September 2004.

The Court concluded that the cumulative effect of the conditions of Mr Modârcă’s detention and the time he was forced to endure them amounted to a violation of Article 3.