CASE OF IZMUTDIN ISAYEV v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 54427/08)
29 October 2015
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Isayev v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Dmitry Dedov, judges,
and André Wampach, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 6 October 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 54427/08) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Russian national, Mr Izmutdin Nurutdinovich Isayev (“the applicant”), on 20 October 2008.
2. The Russian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr G. Matyushkin, the Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.
3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that the conditions of his detention in the Lipetsk remand prison had been inhuman and degrading.
4. On 13 April 2012 the application was communicated to the Government.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicant was born in 1964 and lives in the Lipetsk Region.
6. From 20 May 2008 to 17 July 2008 the applicant was held in the IZ-44/1 remand prison in the Kostroma Region in connection with the criminal proceedings against him.
7. According to the applicant, the three cells in which he was held were severely overcrowded. Cell no. 5 measured eight square meters, was equipped with four sleeping places and accommodated up to seven inmates. Cell no. 7 also offered eight square meters of floor surface, was designed for six detainees but housed up to seven inmates. Finally, cell no. 25 measured twenty-four square meters, had fourteen sleeping places and accommodated up to twenty-five persons.
8. According to the Government, the applicant had been held in cells nos. 7 and 25. Cell no. 7 measured 14.3 square meters and accommodated three detainees, while cell no. 25 measured 29.2 square meters and housed up to seven detainees. The applicant had an individual sleeping place in both cells.
9. In support of their submissions the Government provided certificates issued by the remand prison governor in June 2012, written statements by prison warders signed on 13 and 18 June 2012, undated photographs, and pages from the prison population register which recorded, for each day, the number of sleeping bunks and the number of inmates in each cell, and the total number of inmates in the remand prison.
II. PROCEDURE BEFORE THE COURT
10. On 20 October 2008 the applicant sent his first letter to the Court. It contained, in particular, his complaint about allegedly appalling conditions of his detention in the IZ-44/1 remand prison.
“You must send the duly completed application form and any necessary supplementary documents to the Court as soon as possible and at the latest within six months of the date of the present letter. No extension of this period is possible. If the application form and all the relevant documents are not sent within the above period, the file opened will be destroyed without further warning.”
12. On 4 May 2009 the applicant dispatched the application form which reached the Registry on 10 August 2009.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION
13. The applicant complained that the conditions of his detention in the IZ-44/1 remand prison from 20 May 2008 to 17 July 2008 had violated Article 3 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
14. The Government submitted that the complaint should be declared inadmissible. In their view, the Registry’s letter of 14 November 2008 and the Practice Direction on Institution of Proceedings of 1 November 2003 gave contradictory instructions concerning the time-limit for the submission of a completed application form. Whereas the Practice Direction set the time-limit to six weeks from the date of the first correspondence, the letter allowed the applicant to return the application form to the Registry within six months from that date. In their view, the complaint about the conditions of detention had been submitted on 4 May 2009, that is to say more than six months after the applicant had left the facility, and should thus be rejected as belated.
15. The applicant claimed that he had dispatched the application form in full compliance with the Registry’s instructions.
16. It is not disputed between the parties that the letter of 20 October 2008 amounted to a “first communication from the applicant setting out, even summarily, the object of the application”. According to the Rule 47 § 5 in force at the time, the date of such first communication was considered to be the date of introduction of the application interrupting the six-month limit set by Article 35 § 1 of the Convention. The Court has already found that the six-weeks time-limit in the Practice Direction of 1 November 2003 was an indicative, rather than a mandatory one (see Smertin v. Russia, no. 19027/07, §§ 26-28, 2 October 2014, with further references). It has no reason to depart from that conclusion in the present case. The applicant submitted his application form within six months after the Registry’s letter of 14 November 2008, in compliance with the instructions contained therein.
17. The Court therefore rejects the Government’s objection and considers 20 October 2008 to be the date of introduction of the complaint. Since the six-month period started to run on 17 July 2008, the Court concludes that this complaint is not belated for the purposes of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention.
18. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
19. The Government submitted that the conditions of the applicant’s detention had been satisfactory. The number of inmates in his cells had not exceeded their design capacity and the applicant had been provided with an individual sleeping place at all times. The applicant had at least three square meters of floor surface at his disposal.
20. The applicant maintained his complaint about severe overcrowding in the Kostroma remand prison. He pointed out that the number of detainees in his cells had been visibly altered in the copies of the prison population register which the Government produced.
21. The Court observes that the parties disagreed about the size of the cells where the applicant had been detained and about the number of inmates in the cells. As regards the Government’s evidence, the Court observes that the statements from the prison governor and warders were made in June 2012, more than four years after the applicant had left the remand prison. The Court has repeatedly declined to accept similar certificates and statements on the ground that they could not be viewed as sufficiently reliable, given the lapse of time involved and the absence of any supporting documentary evidence (see Manulin v. Russia, no. 26676/06, § 42, 11 April 2013, with further references). They are therefore of little evidentiary value for the Court.
22. Turning to the copies of the prison population register, the Court observes that many pages contain visible alterations in the entries concerning the number of detainees in the applicant’s cell, with a figure having been erased and another figure, corresponding in all cases to the number of sleeping bunks in the cell, having been written over instead. It is significant that on each page only the entries concerning the applicant’s cells were corrected, the entries in respect of the other cells remained intact. Moreover, on pages that contain alterations, adding up the numbers of inmates in each cell gives a number below the total number of inmates in the remand prison. The Government did not provide any explanation for this discrepancy. The Court reiterates that alterations in a prison population register, without any explanations as to their origin, reason and timing, make the information contained in it unreliable (see Klyukin v. Russia, no. 54996/07, §§ 58-59, 17 October 2013, Vyatkin v. Russia, no. 18813/06, §§ 40-41, 11 April 2013, Manulin, cited above, § 43, and Glotov v. Russia, no. 41558/05, § 25, 10 May 2012). In these circumstances, the Court considers that the information contained in the copy of the prison population register produced by the Government is unreliable and cannot be used for establishing the facts.
23. Lacking any credible information from the Government, the Court accepts the applicant’s assertion that from 20 May 2008 to 17 July 2008 he was detained in the cells where he did not have a sleeping place he could call his own and where he disposed of less than three square meters of floor surface (see paragraph 7 above). The Court has frequently found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of a lack of personal space afforded to detainees (see Ananyev and Others v. Russia, nos. 42525/07 and 60800/08, §§ 143-148, 10 January 2012, with further references). Having regard to its case-law and the applicant’s submissions, the Court reaches the same conclusion in the present case.
24. The Court holds that the conditions of the applicant’s detention in the IZ-44/1 remand prison amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.
25. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of the conditions of the applicant’s detention from 20 May 2008 to 17 July 2008.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
26. The applicant further complained that he did not dispose of an effective domestic remedy for his grievance concerning the inhuman conditions of detention, as required by Article 13 of the Convention, which provides that:
“Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in [the] Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”
27. The Government, with reference to the Court’s judgment of Ananyev and Others v. Russia (cited above), acknowledged the absence of such remedies. The applicant did not submit any specific comments.
28. The Court finds, as it did in the Ananyev and Others judgment (cited above, §§ 93-118), that the applicant did not have at his disposal an effective domestic remedy for his complaints, in breach of Article 13 of the Convention.
III. OTHER ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF THE CONVENTION
29. As to the remainder of the application, the Court considers that, in the light of all the material in its possession and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, it does not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention or its Protocols. Accordingly, the Court rejects it as manifestly ill-founded, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.
IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
30. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
31. The applicant claimed 379,876 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage.
32. The Government considered this amount to be excessive.
33. The Court does not discern any causal link between the violation found and the pecuniary damage alleged; it therefore rejects this claim. Having regard to its case-law in similar cases, it awards the applicant EUR 5,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus any tax that may be chargeable, and rejects the remainder of his claim.
B. Costs and expenses
34. The applicant did not claim any costs or expenses. Accordingly, there is no call to make an award under this head.
C. Default interest
35. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the complaint about the conditions of the applicant’s detention in the IZ-44/1 remand prison and about the absence of an effective domestic remedy in this respect admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on account of the conditions of the applicant’s detention in remand prison IZ-44/1 in Kostroma from 20 May 2008 to 17 July 2008;
3. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros), in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into Russian roubles at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 29 October 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
André Wampach Khanlar Hajiyev
Deputy Registrar President