Marian Stoicescu v. Romania

Application No. 12934/02
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The plaintiff, Marian Stoicescu, a Romanian national, applied to the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 alleging that the conditions in the Romanian prison Bucarest-Jilava violated Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, prohibiting torture and inhumane or degrading treatment.

In 2000, the plaintiff was sentenced to 8 years in prison for three counts of attempted murder. The plaintiff’s sentence was carried out at four prisons, including Bucarest-Jivala. The plaintiff claimed that Bucarest-Jivala was infested with parasites, the detainees had to share beds because of overpopulation, and that hygiene was precarious or completely absent. The plaintiff claimed that to wash his clothing with hot water, or to make tea, he had to improvise to make a kettle, risking electrocution. The plaintiff claimed that the quality of the drinking water was deplorable, containing impurities and a putrid odor. Finally, the plaintiff claimed the guards would put masks on to scare the detainees so they would avoid seeking the protection of their rights. Many of these claims were supported by reports published by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), after visits to the prison in 1999 and 2006.

The Romanian government did not contest the conditions mentioned above. The government claimed that each prison cell received water but that the water did not undergo any testing during the time the plaintiff was serving his sentence. Additionally, the government claimed that the plaintiff had access to warm showers twice a week, and his sheets were cleaned twice a month. Finally, the government claimed that the plaintiff got one hour of free time outside every day.

The Court held that Article 3 imposes an obligation on states to ensure that (1) all prisoners are detained in conditions that are compatible with the respect for human dignity, (2) procedural rules do not subject prisoners to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the level of suffering inherent to detention and (3) that the health and well-being of the prisoners are adequately secured.

The Court held that the conditions of the detention center, together with the length of time the plaintiff had been submitted to those conditions amounted to a violation of Article 3. The government did not deny the allegations made by the plaintiff regarding the sharing of beds and the untested water. Furthermore, the lack of individual living space was confirmed by the CPT reports. The conditions in the prison amounted to putting the plaintiff through an ordeal of an intensity that exceeded the inevitable level of suffering inherent in imprisonment.

Article 3 imposes on the state a duty to ensure that all prisoners are detained in conditions that are compatible with the respect for human dignity, the manner and method of execution of procedural rules do not subject prisoners to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent to detention and that, given the practical demands of imprisonment, the health and well-being of the prisoners are adequately secured. Para 22.

The court admits that nothing indicates a true intention to humiliate or belittle the applicant. However, the absence of such a goal does not exclude the finding of a violation of Article 3. Para 25.

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