[2018] ECHR 838
Download Judgment: English
Country: Lithuania
Region: Europe
Year: 2018
Court: The European Court of Human Rights
Tags: Freedom from Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, prisons

The case originated in two applications against the Republic of Lithuania lodged with the European Court of Human Rights Cour under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter “the Convention”) by two Lithuanian nationals, Mr Osvaldas Tamašauskas (“the first applicant”) and Mr Haroldas Radzevičius (“the second applicant”). Their main contentions in both the applications were related to the unhygienic environment in the prison cell and lack of adequate personal space. They argued that the condition of the prison led to the violation of their right under Article 3 of the Convention, which provided protection against inhuman and degrading treatment in the prison.
The Šiauliai Regional Administrative Court with respect to applicant one claim’s found that his right to adequate personal space might have been breached during his detention, and awarded him EUR 3,000 as damage. However, the court dismissed the allegations that the condition in the cells was unsanitary. In Applicant number two case, the Kaunas Regional Administrative Court held that, although there had been a violation of personal space, this was mitigated by the applicant’s ability to move freely around the prison. As such, the Court rejected his claim for EUR 16,600 as non-pecuniary damages. After lodging complaints in the domestic courts of Lithuania, both the applicants filed a complaint against the Government of Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter “the Court”). Further, the Government submitted a unilateral declaration whereby they acknowledged that the conditions of the first applicant’s (Tamašauskas) detention in Šiauliai Prison had not complied with Article 3 of the Convention and proposed to pay him EUR 5,000 by way of satisfaction. This proposal was rejected by the applicant and he requested the court to continue the examination of the case.
The legal issues in this case were(1) Whether the unilateral declaration offered a sufficient basis for finding that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols does not require the Court to continue its examination of the case and (2) whether the Lithuanian government detained the applicants under conditions contrary to Article 3 of the Convention.

With respect to the first issue, the court held that the amount proposed in the Government’s unilateral declaration did not correspond to its own awards in similar cases and therefore, did not provide a sufficient basis for it to not continue the examination. Thereby, the court rejected the Government’s request to strike the present application and continued its examination as pleaded by the applicant.
With respect to the second issue, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the overcrowding endured by both the applicants. For the first applicant, the court found that even though there was no method of establishing the exact amount of personal space available to him during his detention; the Court based its decision on the Government’s acknowledgment, within domestic proceedings, that the applicant’s detention conditions were not compatible with Article 3. Therefore, the court concluded that the first applicant’s detention in Šiauliai Remand Prison for 629 days violated Article 3 of the Convention.
For the second applicant, the Court held that his detention in Alytus Correctional Facility for a 5-month period in which he had less than 3 sq. m of personal space violated Article 3 of the Convention.
The Court reaffirmed that, in assessing the adequacy of conditions of detention under Article 3, the amount of personal space allocated to an inmate was an important factor if space measures 3 to 4 square meters. Further, it was a violation of Article 3 if these conditions were coupled with other inadequate conditions, such as those related to access to natural light, proper ventilation, and hygiene standards.
The Court awarded non-pecuniary damages of EUR 6,400 to Tamašauska and EUR 3,200 to Radzevičius.

“The Court reiterates that in cases where a prison cell measuring in the range of 3 to 4 sq. m of personal space per inmate is at issue, the space factor remains a weighty factor in the Court’s assessment of the adequacy of conditions of detention. In such instances a violation of Article 3 will be found if the space factor is coupled with other aspects of inappropriate physical conditions of detention related to, in particular, access to outdoor exercise, natural light or air, availability of ventilation, adequacy of room temperature, the possibility of using the toilet in private, and compliance with basic sanitary and hygiene requirements…”- para 35
“However, the period of 140 days from 22 November 2012 until 11 April 2013 during which the applicant had 2.96 sq. m of personal space cannot, according to the Court’s case-law, be considered as being of short duration (ibid., §§ 151-53). Therefore, the reduction in the personal space during that period could not have been compensated for by other factors.” (para 37)