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ECtHR factsheets – detention and mental health


The detention of a person who is ill may engage Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Convention. Article 3 requires States to ensure that every prisoner is detained in conditions that are compatible with respect for human dignity.

Conditions of detention

B. v. Germany, 10.03.1988: the applicant had complained about the conditions of his pre-trial detention, claiming that he had not been able to receive suitable medical treatment for his state of health, which had been weakened by the suffering he had endured in a concentration camp between 1940 and 1945. No violation of Article 3, the applicant having been treated for psychological problems in prison and the medical reports not being sufficiently conclusive to justify his allegations about incompatibility with detention.

Suicide in detention

Rivière v. France, 11.07.2006: the applicant had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder involving suicidal tendencies and the experts were concerned by certain aspects of his behaviour, in particular a compulsion towards self-strangulation. He complained about his continued imprisonment in spite of his psychiatric problems which required treatment outside the prison. Violation of Article 3: The applicant’s continued detention without appropriate medical supervision had constituted inhuman and degrading treatment (prisoners with serious mental disorders and suicidal tendencies required special measures geared to their condition, regardless of the seriousness of the offence of which they had been convicted).