Gorobet v. Moldova

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The applicant was a Moldovan national. He was taken to a psychiatrist hospital from his house on 25 February 2008 by police officers. In the hospital, he was placed with patients with serious mental disorders, he wasn’t given the chance to contact his lawyer or his family despite his repeated requests, and injections had been administered to him as a result of which he had lost consciousness. The applicant was forced to take medication, and his medical records showed that he was treated against paranoid depression. There was also a consent form allegedly signed by him (he later stated to court that he hadn’t signed it). On letters dated 27 July and 26 December 2008, the District Court responded to the applicant’s explanation request stating that it had not received an official request for his forced hospitalization. Official records showed that the applicant hadn’t been registered as suffering from mental illness before 25 February 2008. Medical records signed on 13 June 2008 also confirmed that he wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol and didn’t have mental disorder either. 

On 29 August 2008, the applicant lodged his complaint to the Prosecutor’s office requesting for an opening of investigation on his forced illegal hospitalization and psychiatric treatment. He claimed that the medical information entered about him was not correct, and the Doctor who recorded his condition hadn’t seen him at all. The applicant claimed that  he was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by the time he was hospitalized.

During the investigation process, it was found that the applicant was hospitalized because his family had approached the Doctor for a help to have the applicant hospitalized, claiming that they had been threatened by the his behavior. The Doctor stated that the applicant was brought to him for a consultation by a police office after which he had determined that the applicant had delusional belief which pose a risk to his family and thus justified his hospitalization.The Doctor also stated that he later issued a document stating that he was mentally healthy after the applicant explained to him that he had no such problems or treatments before.

The prosecution’s office requested the applicant to undergo psychiatric treatment to enable it determine his mental health status but the applicant refused as it would subject him to an in-patient treatment of 3 weeks. On 12 June 2009, the Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the applicant’s complaint on the ground that his previous hospitalization had been duly ordered by the Doctor and it was not able to make a determination on the diagnosis due to the applicant’s refusal of hospitalization. The issue of the consent form had not been argued on any occasion. His appeal to the superior Prosecutor’s Office was dismissed on 13 July 2009.

The applicant appealed before the District Court stating that the Doctor had confirmed his mental health as healthy, there was no court order for his hospitalization which made it unlawful and arbitrary. The court had dismissed the appeal on the ground that the applicant refused hospitalization. The matter was brought before the government and investigation was opened by the General Prosecutor’s Office. This investigation was pending when the applicant brought his claim to the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) and there hadn’t been a significant progress by the time the ECHR reviewed the case.

The applicant claimed that he had been arbitrarily detained in a psychiatric hospital in violation of Article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). He also claimed that he had unlawfully been subjected to psychiatric treatment when he actually was healthy, that this had caused him a serious suffering and that this had amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

The ECHR noted that the procedures for a compulsory hospitalization of a person as provided under domestic law had been disregarded in the applicant's case. It had also confirmed that there had not been any expert opinion regarding the applicant's state of mental health and the need to have had him hospitalized. The ECHR was not convinced by the argument of the government that the applicant was of unsound mind which required him to be hospitalized under domestic law. The government also failed to show that the applicant's mental health conditions (before his hospitalization) were of the kind and the degree to warrant his forced confinement.  The ECHR found a violation of Article 5 (1) of the Convention.

The ECHR noted that the applicant had been detained in the hospital for 41 days with no contact to the outside. Thus, the ECHR found that when he was subjected to an unlawful and arbitrary psychiatric treatment, the applicant could have reasonably felt feel fear, anguish and inferiority which constituted a degrading treatment, a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

The ECHR awarded the applicant pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages for the violations found.