Enea v. Italy

Application No. 74912/01
Download Judgment: English

The plaintiff, Salvatore Enea, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for crimes related to mafia-type criminal organization, drug trafficking, and illegal possession of firearms. The Minister of Justice ordered the plaintiff be subject to a special prison regime for one year due to the danger he presented to society. The regime included restricting family member visits, prohibiting the use of the telephone, and restricting outdoor exercise to a maximum of two hours per day. The order for the special regime was renewed 19 times.

The plaintiff suffered from a number of disorders which required him to use a wheelchair. He alleged that, given his state of health, his continued detention under the special prison regime amounted to torture or, alternatively, to inhuman and degrading treatment and was thus a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“Convention”). He alleged that his use of a wheelchair and his placement in the hospital wing aggravated his suffering. He admitted the danger he posed may have justified the special regime for a limited period of a few days or a few months, but no longer.

The government argued that the plaintiff’s treatment under the special regime had not attained the level of severity required to fall within the scope of Article 3.

The Court held there was no violation of Article 3. Article 3 places a positive obligation on states to ensure that the health and well-being of prisoners is adequately secured by providing them with the requisite medical attention.  Ill treatment must meet a minimum level of severity to fall within the scope of Article 3, which is dependent on the circumstances. Inhuman or degrading treatment causes suffering or humiliation beyond the inevitable suffering or humiliation naturally resulting from legitimate treatment or punishment.

The Court found that the government fulfilled its duty by monitoring the plaintiff’s health, assessing the issues and providing him with the appropriate care, such as placing him in the hospital wing and releasing him for surgery on two separate occasions. The restrictions imposed on the plaintiff were necessary and the court responsible for the execution of sentences lifted or eased some of the restrictions on several occasions.

The plaintiff also alleged violations of Article 6, 8, 10, and 13 of the Convention. The court held there had been a violation of Article 6, concerning the plaintiff’s right to a court during the period of application of the special prison regime. All other complaints were dismissed. The State was ordered to pay the plaintiff 20,000 euros.

“With particular reference to persons deprive of their liberty, Article 3 imposes a positive obligation on the State to ensure that a person is detained in conditions which are compatible with respect for his human dignity, that the manner and method of the execution of the measure do not subject him to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention and that, given the practical demands of imprisonment, his health and well-being are adequately secured by, among other things, providing him with the requisite mental assistance.” Para 57.

“The conditions of detention of a person who is ill must ensure that his or her health it protected, regard being had to the ordinary and reasonable demands of imprisonment.” Para 58.

“Although Article 3 of the Convention cannot be construed as laying down a general obligation to release detainees or place them in a civil hospital, even if they are suffering from an illness which is particularly difficult to treat, it nonetheless imposes an obligation on the State to protect the physical well-being of persons deprived of their liberty.” Para 58.