Holomiov v. Moldova

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The applicant was a Moldovan national who had been subjected to a prolonged detention due to an investigation that was being carried out on an offense of aiding and abetting bribery which he was suspected of committing.The applicant had claimed to the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) that he had faced inhuman and degrading treatment by the time he was detained and that his right to liberty had been violated, in violation respectively of, Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention).

His detention began on 24 January 2002 and lasted until 28 December 2005 when his remand in custody was replaced to house arrest. In between this time, the applicant had requested for his release from detention due to his medical condition stating that appropriate medical care hadn’t been provided in prison. All these requests, however, had been rejected.

While detained, the applicant had been hospitalized and treated several times.  “He suffered from numerous diseases such as chronic hepatitis, second-degree hydronephrosis (accumulation of urine in the kidney because of an obstruction in the urethra), uric diathesis, increased ecogenicity of pancreatic parenchyma, chronic bilateral pyelonephritis (inflammation of the kidney and pelvis caused by bacterial infection) with functional impairment of the right kidney, hydronephrosis of the right kidney with functional impairment, stones in the urinary tract, somatoform disorder, chronic renal failure, head trauma and generalized anxiety disorder of hypertensive type”. [Para. 17]

The Prosecutor’s office had notified the District Court on 15 November 2004 that the applicant began a hunger strike for being treated in the prison.  The applicant complained to the Ministry of Justice that the medical treatment that was being provided for him wasn’t adequate and the Ministry rejected the complaint on the ground that the he had been provided the appropriate medical service in prison. In letters dated on 7 October 2003 and 12 October 2005 to the applicant’s lawyer, the Prison’s Doctor in Chief and the prison’s Chief stated that there were no urologists, cardiologists and neurosurgeons at the prison Hospital.  

From the day of the first hearing for the applicant’s case i.e., 21 June 2002 to 30 July 2002, the hearing had to be adjourned due to a number of grounds, one being the applicant’s inability to come to attend as a result of his health problems. The applicant asked to be hospitalized and the court ordered that he be treated at the Central Republican Hospital which was under the Ministry of Health. “On 20 August 2002 the applicant complained to the court that the authorities were refusing to send him for a medical examination, and that he had therefore commenced a hunger strike on 15 August 2002”. [Para. 35] In response, the court wrote to the prison to comply with its order. The applicant, however, complained of the order’s non-enforcement on 26 September 2002 to the Ministry of Justice. The prison administration informed the court that the applicant refused to be taken to the Central Republican Hospital as per the order. Later, the applicant was treated at this hospital and it was found that he had been suffering from the consequences of a brain disease for which he had been treated. A psychiatric treatment had been done and the applicant was found to be competent to plead to the charges against him at court.  The case continued to be adjourned for various reasons that the criminal proceedings haven’t been decided by the time the applicant lodged his claim to the ECHR.

The government had argued against the applicant’s claim to the ECHR that appropriate medical care, by qualified professionals, had been provided to the applicant in prison and that he had refused the medical care in several occasions. The applicant argued that the care had been ineffective for which he needed a care not available in a prison. He also contended that there were no urologists, cardiologists and neurosurgeons at the prison’s hospital, and that his condition was not incompatible with prolonged detention.  


The ECHR noted that the government had an obligation under Article 3 of the Convention to protect the well-being of persons whose liberty had been deprived. The ECHR also noted that adequate medical care, for the serious state of health that the applicant was in, had not been provided as a result of which domestic courts ordered his home arrest.  The ECHR, thus, held from the circumstances of the applicant's case that he had not been provided with adequate medical care and his prolonged detainment under such conditions amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the Convention.

The ECHR also held that there had been a violation of Article 5(1) of the Convention as the applicant remained detained after his detention warrant expired in May 2002, making it an unlawful detention under this provision. The ECHR noted that the applicant had been subjected to a prolonged detention despite the severe conditions of his health that demanded an expeditious review of his case by the courts. It thus held that this delay in the proceedings had failed to meet the 'reasonable time' requirement and thus constituted a violation of Article 6 of the Convention.

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