(Application no. 41653/05)
2 July 2009
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 Kochetkov v. Estonia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Peer Lorenzen, President,
Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska,
Zdravka Kalaydjieva, judges,
and Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 9 June 2009,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
A. The applicant's detention in Narva Arrest House
1. The applicant's submissions on the facts
2. The Government's submissions on the facts
B. Court proceedings concerning the conditions of the applicant's detention
II. FINDINGS OF THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE FOR THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE AND INHUMAN AND DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT (CPT)
“26. The material conditions under which detained persons (in police custody, on remand or sentenced) were being held in certain police arrest houses, including those in Kohtla-Järve and Narva, were appalling; conditions also remained very poor in Jõgeva.
Detainees were locked up 24 hours per day - with no outdoor exercise - in cells that were filthy, dimly lit (with no access to natural light, and poor artificial lighting) and severely overcrowded (up to 15 persons in a cell of 15 m²). The unpartitioned lavatories - where persons were obliged to relieve themselves in the direct presence of their cellmates - exacerbated the effects of the very poor ventilation, rendering the already dank air nauseating. In many cases, persons were provided with no mattresses and blankets, and lacked basic personal hygiene products. The cumulative effect of the execrable material conditions and the impoverished regime could well be described as inhuman and degrading. This state of affairs was exacerbated by the fact that persons were being held under such conditions for prolonged periods (i.e. for up to three months and, on occasion, even longer).
As regards, more particularly, the arrest house at Narva, following complaints made by detainees, the Office of the Legal Chancellor performed an on-the-spot inspection of the establishment in February 2003. In a letter subsequently addressed to the Minister of the Interior, the Legal Chancellor recommended inter alia that improvements be made to lighting, and that at least one daily hour of outdoor exercise be offered to detainees; further, he indicated that the internal regulations violated Section 45 (1) of the Imprisonment Act of 2000, which relates to 'requirements of construction technology, health and hygiene', as well as lighting. It is clear from the delegation's findings that no action has been taken on the Legal Chancellor's recommendations.
28. An impoverished regime - 24-hour in-cell lock-up - remained the norm for everyone detained in an arrest house. Of the six arrest houses visited by the delegation, Jõgeva was the only one where detainees were being offered the opportunity to take outdoor exercise, albeit only twice a week or so. Even if a particular establishment was equipped with yards, staff shortages were cited as reasons for not granting outdoor exercise to detainees. ...
30. ... [A]t the end-of-visit talks on 30 September 2003, the delegation made an immediate observation concerning Kohtla-Järve and Narva Police Arrest Houses, as well as other arrest houses where similar conditions of detention prevail. It requested the Estonian authorities to take urgent steps to improve conditions of detention in police arrest houses and, in particular, to ensure that:
(i) all persons held overnight in an arrest house are immediately provided with a clean mattress and clean blankets as well as with personal hygiene products (toilet paper, soap, tooth brush and paste, towel, sanitary towels, etc.);
(ii) all persons who are detained for prolonged periods are granted at least one hour of outdoor exercise per day;
(iii) all cells are fitted with adequate artificial lighting.
31. In response to the above-mentioned immediate observation, the Estonian authorities acknowledged that the situation was not satisfactory, indicating that conditions in arrest houses remain an issue of concern to them and that 'the improvement of the situation is ongoing'.
Responding to item (i) above, the authorities indicated that 'a sufficient number of bedsheet sets have been provided ...; bedsheets are changed regularly'. It was further indicated that persons are provided with 'basic toiletries, if necessary'. The CPT wishes to receive confirmation that 'bedsheet sets' include clean mattresses and clean blankets.
With reference to item (ii), it was affirmed that, of the 17 arrest houses in Estonia, only four have 'appropriate walking yards', where 'persons have the possibility to stay in the open air for an hour a day'; in the remaining 13 establishments, construction or renovation of walking yards was envisaged for 2004.
As for item (iii), it was indicated that 'artificial lighting and ventilation have been improved' in six arrest houses and will be brought 'into compliance' in the remaining arrest houses in 2004.
53. More generally, the CPT has noted that the average amount of space per remand prisoner in Estonia is 3 m². Such an average does not offer a satisfactory amount of living space; the Committee recommends that the Estonian authorities strive to maintain a standard of at least 4 m² of living space per prisoner in multi-occupancy cells, and that official capacities be calculated accordingly.”
“By the end of 2003 the police authorities had eliminated the following problems outlined by the CPT: missing bed accessories and toilet articles were bought – to be given to those people who do not have them.
After the visit of the CPT delegation to the custodial institutions and arrest houses in September 2003 the Police Board issued on 18 November 2003 order No PA12-1.4/249 to the police prefects, 'The improvement of accommodation and health care conditions in arrest houses', which provided that police prefectures must buy a sufficient number of bed linen sets (mattress, blanket, sheet, pillow, pillow case) and arrange the regular changing and cleaning of these. Clean bed accessories must be given to each person detained in the arrest house, except those who have been brought in for detoxification.
All police authorities have implemented this order.
The Police Board has developed instructions for the initial medical examination to be performed at the time of admitting the person into the arrest house and for sanitary treatment. After these instructions enter into force each person admitted to a arrest house is granted a medical examination within a reasonable time. Medical examinations will be performed by a doctor or a medical assistant. At the latest on January 1, 2005 all police authorities will have signed agreements with a doctor or a medical assistant as regards the performance of initial medical examinations.”
III. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
“(1) A natural person may claim financial compensation for non-pecuniary damage resulting from wrongful degradation of dignity, damage to health, deprivation of liberty, violation of the inviolability of the home or private life or of the confidentiality of correspondence, or defamation of the person's honour or good name.
(2) Non-pecuniary damage shall be compensated for in proportion to the gravity of the offence, taking into account the form and gravity of the guilt.”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
1. Submissions of the parties
2. The Court's assessment
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13 OF THE CONVENTION
“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.”
1. Submissions of the parties
2. The Court's assessment
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“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.”
B. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into Estonian kroons at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;
(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;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 2 July 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Claudia Westerdiek Peer Lorenzen