by Stanisław OSTANEK
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 12 May 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 28 July 2005,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Stanislaw Ostanek, is a Polish national who was born in 1953 and at the time of lodging his application, he was serving a prison sentence in Radom Remand Centre.
The circumstances of the case
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
On 23 September 2003 the applicant, who had been convicted of an unspecified offence and sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment, was detained in Radom Remand Centre.
The applicant suffers from discal hernia and other bone problems. He requires surgery and physiotherapy. He has difficulty walking and is, generally, of poor health. He suffers from chronic bronchitis and inflammation of the liver, as well as asthma.
The applicant submitted that the cells in which he had been held measured eight square metres and were severely overcrowded. The cells were not ventilated and there was very little natural light. The artificial lighting was insufficient. In the wintertime it was cold inside the cells because the radiators were never working. The sanitary and hygienic conditions were very poor. The sleeping blankets and mattresses were old and shabby. Prisoners had no access to warm water. Once a week they would take a cold shower. No cleaning or washing detergents were at their disposal. There was fungus on the walls. Prisoners were allowed to stay outdoors for only one or two hours per day. They would spend the remaining time inside the cells lying down on the beds because there was not enough space for them to move around. The food served to prisoners was of very bad quality. It was often made of outdated ingredients and served cold. Despite the applicant’s liver problems, he had not been put on a special diet. As a result, he often experienced stomach ache after a meal. Twice a day, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. there were power cuts in the prisoners’ cells.
In addition to the general conditions of the applicant’s detention as described above, the applicant stated that whenever he had to appear before the penitentiary judge (sędzia penitencjarny) he was taken from his cell at 8 a.m. often without being given enough time to finish his breakfast. He usually returned to his cell at 1 or 2 p.m. to be served a cold lunch.
The medical care within the penitentiary system was inadequate. The applicant submitted that it was very difficult to obtain access to an in house doctor and there were no medical specialists available. Moreover, the prison doctors did not prescribe any treatment because of the unavailability of medicines at Radom Remand Centre. The applicant stated that in May 2005 he had lost the hearing in one ear as a result of an inappropriately treated ear infection. He also submitted that he was receiving vitamins and, for his backaches, one painkiller every 24 hours. However, he never received proper medicines to treat his illnesses.
In addition, the applicant submitted that he had had limited access to the phone. Even though he always signed up to use the phone, the wardens, in the applicant’s opinion, out of malice, refused to escort him to the phone booth. The restriction on the use of the phone was particularly severe as it diminished the applicant’s contacts with his elderly mother.
There was no access to law books or any information on how to lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights.
The applicant made twenty-three requests for a period of leave in the enforcement of his sentence (przerwa w odbywaniu kary). They were rejected. In the applicant’s opinion, his requests were examined automatically and without due consideration being given to his deteriorating health or to the need to take care of his elderly mother.
For the purpose of the proceedings concerning his request for a period of leave in the enforcement of the sentence, on 20 November 2006 and 28 March 2007 the applicant was examined by medical experts from Radom Remand Centre. He alleged that neither examination had been thorough; they had lasted no longer than 5 minutes and consisted of general questions.
On 3 November 2004 the Lublin Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny) upheld the Radom Regional Court’s (Sąd Okręgowy) decision of 16 August 2004 to refuse the applicant’s request for a period of leave in the enforcement of the applicant’s sentence. The Lublin Court of Appeal held that there were no grounds for the applicant’s release since all his ailments could be treated within the penitentiary health care system.
The applicant lodged numerous complaints with the Ombudsman and with the State and penitentiary authorities as well as with the remand centre’s administration about the conditions of his detention and the inadequate medical care provided within the penitentiary system.
On 16 March 2005 the Director of the Warsaw Regional Inspectorate of Prison Service (Okręgowy Inspektorat Służby Więziennej) informed the applicant that his complaint about the allegedly inadequate medical care in Radom Remand Centre had been found to be ill-founded. The applicant was told that he had been examined by many doctors specialising in different fields of medicine. However, the applicant had not been cooperative in that he had refused on a number of occasions to undergo a medical examination. The applicant had not been diagnosed with any liver disorder. Consequently, a special diet was not considered necessary. Similarly, the applicant had not been considered to require physiotherapy. It was concluded that the applicant was under regular medical supervision, had unlimited access to in-house doctors and received adequate medical treatment whenever such was necessary. On 5 May 2005, upon the applicant’s appeal, the Director of the Warsaw Regional Inspectorate of Prison Service reviewed the relevant material and upheld the above decision.
By a letter of 7 April 2005 the Radom Regional Court’s penitentiary judge noted that the applicant had been examined by many doctors specialising in different fields of medicine. From January to April 2005 the applicant had eleven medical consultations. In addition, the applicant was scheduled for a neurological examination and rectoscopy. He was receiving medicines on a regular basis. With respect to the conditions in the Radom Remand Centre, it was pointed out that the lack of hot water in the shower room had occurred only occasionally as a result of a temporary fault in the prison boiler room. On the other hand, it was acknowledged that the applicant’s cell had been damp but the problem had been resolved. Furthermore, it was stated that the temperature of the radiators and water inside the cells was regulated automatically to meet the required standard. Finally, it was observed that the window inside the applicant’s cell was made of Plexiglas, which did not limit his access to natural light.
In a letter of 5 July 2005 the Ombudsman, who had obtained information from the Warsaw Regional Inspectorate of Prison Service, noted that the general conditions of the applicant’s detention, including his dietary and medical care and living conditions, were not in breach of his rights. On the other hand, it was acknowledged that Radom Remand Centre had periodic shortages in the supply of hot water in the shower room because of the reduced efficiency of the boiler room.
On 24 November 2005 the Governor of the Radom Remand Centre (Dyrektor Aresztu Śledczego) informed the applicant about the outcome of an inquiry into his allegations about the inadequate conditions of his detention. It was found that prisoners had access to warm water in the morning and in the evening, as well as after every meal. Interruptions in the supply of hot water in the shower room occurred occasionally and were caused by technical problems. Once a month wardens distributed cleaning detergents and hygiene articles. Each cell was equipped with a bucket and a rag to wash the floor. Food served to prisoners met the nutritional standards set out in the relevant ordinance of the Minister of Justice. Meals were transported in special thermoses in order to maintain their proper temperature. Before being served, each dish was tasted by a member of the medical staff. The meals had never been found to taste bad.
The applicant complained under Article 3 of the Convention about the conditions of his detention and inadequate medical care in Radom Remand Centre.
He also complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that he had been denied a period of leave in the enforcement of the sentence which he had requested on numerous occasions on health grounds.
Moreover, the applicant complained under Article 8 of the Convention about the deprivation of contact with his mother in that his access to a telephone was restricted by the staff of Radom Remand Centre.
Finally, the applicant complained under Article 34 of the Convention about difficulties in lodging his application with the European Court of Human Rights in that he had no access to legal publications and other necessary information.
By letter dated 11 February 2008 the Government’s observations were sent to the applicant at his home address in Warsaw and the address of Radom Remand Centre. The applicant was requested to submit any observations together with any claims for just satisfaction in reply by 18 March 2008.
By letters dated 23 June 2008, sent by registered post to the above addresses, the applicant was notified that the period allowed for submission of his observations had expired on 18 March 2008 and that no extension of time had been requested. Moreover, the applicant’s attention was drawn to Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention, which provides that the Court may strike a case out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the applicant does not intend to pursue the application. The applicant was also instructed to state, by 15 July 2008, whether he wished to pursue his application before the Court. On 1 July 2008 the letter sent to the remand centre was claimed by the applicant.
By letter of 28 July 2008 the applicant informed the Registry that he had been released from detention and that he wished to receive any correspondence at his home address in Warsaw.
By letter of 11 August 2008, sent to the applicant’s home address the Registry informed the applicant that, although the deadline for his observations on the admissibility and merits of the application had expired and no extension of time had been expressly requested, the President of the Chamber had agreed nonetheless to grant such extension. The new time limit for the submission of the applicant’s observations was set for 22 September 2008.
By letters of 28 January 2009, sent by registered post to the applicant’s home address and the address of Radom Remand Centre, the applicant was notified that the period allowed for submission of his observations had expired on 22 September 2008 and that no extension of time had been requested. Moreover, the applicant’s attention was drawn to Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention, which provides that the Court may strike a case out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the applicant did not intend to pursue the application. The applicant was also instructed to indicate, by 18 February 2009, whether he wished to pursue his application before the Court. On 5 February 2009 the letter sent to his home address was claimed by the applicant. However, he has not to date resumed correspondence with the Court in the instant case.
The Court considers that, in these circumstances, the applicant may be regarded as no longer wishing to pursue his application, within the meaning of Article 37 § 1 (a) of the Convention. Furthermore, in accordance with Article 37 § 1 in fine, the Court finds no special circumstances regarding respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols which require the continued examination of the case. In view of the above, it is appropriate to strike the case out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases.
Fatoş Aracı Nicolas Bratza
Deputy Registrar President