Case of Sykora v Czech Republic

App No; 23419/07
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Region: Africa
Year: 2012
Court: European Court of Human Rights
Tags: right to liberty

The applicant Sykora was born with a psycho social disability and had been treated in hospitals the most recent one being in 1995. He had stopped taking medication since he believed they had adverse effects on his eyesight and had used alternative ways to cope with his eyesight.

The municipal court in Brno deprived him his legal capacity following an opinion by a medical expert that the applicant suffered from Schizophrenia. The applicant was never summoned to these proceedings though he was aware of them and thus did not participate in them.

The applicant appealed this decision but the higher court dismissed the his case  and remitted the case back to the lower court which , again, deprived him his legal capacity basing its decision on a new report by the Dr H, the same doctor who had issued a report in the earlier proceedings  . The doctor though he did not examine the applicant due to his refusal to take medical examinations, he however concluded that the applicant had not improved and still not able to take care of himself or manage property .The doctor stated that the applicants presence at the proceedings would be inappropriate. He was thus not heard nether was the judgment sent to him.

On appeal, the higher court quashed the judgment of the lower court for considering the opinion of the expert who had made conclusions without examining the applicant. The higher ordered the lower court to appoint a new expert. A new expert, Dr, B stated that the applicant was able to carry legal assessments.

In 2008, the applicant requested the ministry of justice to award him non pecuniary damages for being subjected to incapacitation proceedings and violation of other procedural rights. He was awarded 4602 Euros in damages by the ministry.

These awards were quashed by a district court, this decision was upheld by the municipal court and later by the Constitutional court which stated that the decisions legal opinions of the ordinary courts were not unconstitutional.

The applicant was involved in a verbal argument with his partner Ms J who called the police and an ambulance. The argument was nonviolent and the police stated that there had been no signs of violence, Ms J also confirmed that the applicant had not been aggressive. This notwithstanding, the ambulance doctor decided to take the applicant to a psychiatrist hospital, a decision which the applicant disagreed with but did not resist.

On examination at the hospital the specialists stated that he had szchizoprenia. The applicant informed the doctors that neuroleptic psychiatric medication had adverse effects on his eyesight, however he was ordered to take the medication. Upon refusal to take the medication, the same were administered through injection and this made his eyesight to deteriorate. The applicant, in a letter complained to the hospital’s director but the letter was retained by the hospital staff.

The hospital informed the court of his involuntary detention and his guardian was also informed. The guardian consented to the detention. The applicant contacted a lawyer from Medical Disability Advocacy Center( MDAC)who informed the court that the detention was unlawful. He was subsequently released upon which he complained of suffering from impaired vision and mental health as result of his stay at the facility.

The applicant brought a constitutional appeal for violation of his rights to liberty, fair hearing, respect for private life and non-discrimination due to his involuntary hospitalization and denial of his legal capacity. The constitutional court dismissed his appeal.

The applicant further filed a new complaint of delays in reviews of his involuntary confinement to a mental facility. The regional court dismissed his case stating that he was no longer in the facility.

He lodged a constitutional appeal but the constitutional court dismissed his appeal as unsubstantiated.

The applicant had complained that his detention at the psychiatrist hospital violated his right to liberty in contravention of Article 5 sub article I(e) of the Convention which reads thus’“

  1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law: ...

(e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts. The court outlined three conditions to be met for detention to be considered 1.The disorder must be established before a competent authority, the mental disorder must be of a kind or degree warranting compulsory confinement, validity of continued confinement must depend upon the persistence of such a disorder the court was guided by the case of Winterp v Netherlands. The court further stated that for the detention to be considered lawful the domestic procedure must provide sufficient guarantees against arbitrariness as had been held in H.L. v United Kingdom, no 45508/99.

The court noted that the applicant had been confined to the mental facility without his consent and while his confinement was confirmed after five days the court held that it consisted a deprivation of his right to liberty .It cited three cases; Stanev v. Bulgaria [GC], no. 36760/06, 122-123, ECHR 2012 ,D.D. v. Lithuania, no. 13469/06, § 122, 14 February 2012; and Shtukaturov v. Russia, no. 44009/05, § 109, ECHR 2008).The court further observed that the ministry of justice had acknowledged that right to liberty had been violated and had even awarded compensation to him. The government objection to this complaint was thus dismissed. The government argued that the applicant had failed to exhaust all domestic remedies and that his appeal had been dismissed by the constitutional court, on the other hand the applicant stated that he could not claim for unlawful detention since detention had been carried in accordance with the national laws . The Court notes that no domestic court reviewed the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention as would be the normal procedure in cases of involuntary hospitalisations. The court held that there had been violation of Article 5(1) of the convention.

The court held that the applicant’s second constitutional appeal had been dismissed on merits on not for failure to exhaust local remedies or for not complying with the laid down procedures

The court further recalled that the constitutional court had upheld a decision of the local courts dismissing the applicant’s claims. The court further observed that the government had not presented any similar case in which a claim for damages had been successful. The court dismissed the government objection of lack of exhaustion of local remedies.

Lastly ,on admissibility , the government asked the court to consider Article 35(3)b and maintained that the applicant had not suffered any significant disadvantage .The court was not persuaded that deprivation which lasted 20 days did not amount to any significant  disadvantage and thus dismissed this objection.

The court further noted that the complaint was not ‘manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35(3)b of the Convention and held that it was not inadmissible on any other ground.

The court declared that complains concerning legal capacity in accordance with article 5&8 of the Convention were admissible. The court held that there had been a violation of articles 5(1), 5(4) and 8 of the Convention,

The court ordered the respondent state to pay the applicant within three months of the date of the judgment in accordance with Article 44(2) of the Convention EUR 20,000 (Twenty Thousand Euros) in addition to any tax payable.

The court further ordered that on expiry of the 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. The rest of the application for just satisfaction was dismissed.