Jeladze v. Georgia

Application No. 1871/08
Download Judgment: English

Mr. Genadi Jeladze, an imprisoned Georgian national, discovered that he had contracted a chronic form of viral Hepatitis C (“HCV”) while in prison. A self-funded medical examination recommended antiviral treatment on an outpatient basis. In response, the prison offered drug treatment which did not include antiviral drugs. Over the next year, Jeladze’s lawyer requested a transfer to the prison hospital, a copy of Jeladze’s medical file, and an examination to determine the development of the prisoner’s HCV condition. No one responded to his requests. Jeladze’s lawyer petitioned the court for a comprehensive medical examination and a treatment plan. The prison complied. However, Jeladze refused to undergo treatment unless he was transferred to a new prison as he believe his current conditions were inadequate for the treatment.

Jeladze alleged that the prison’s failure to provide antiviral treatment in due time and the inadequacy of the original prison’s capacity for treatment violated his rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“Convention”), which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Court ruled that 15 months of non-treatment violated Jeladze’s Article 3 rights. The Court reasoned that a doctor’s visit or prescribed treatment does not necessarily conclude that the medical assistance was adequate; rather adequate medical assistance requires a comprehensive record, prompt and accurate diagnoses and care, and proactive treatment when necessary. The Court held that the extended period of time prior to medical testing coupled with the refusal to pay for the test was incompatible with the State’s general obligation to take measures to prevent the transmission of contagious diseases, and that the State’s actions after Jeladze’s HCV diagnosis were belated and inadequate.

The Court also held that the prison was did not infringe Jeladze’s Article 3 rights during the period in which it refused him treatment. The Court reasoned that the treatment plan was concrete, and, although Jeladze claimed that the prison was unsuitable for the treatment, he had no evidence to support this claim and never attempted the treatment.

“From the very outset the Court would like to address the issue of compulsory screening of prisoners for HCV infection raised by the Government (see paragraph 37 above). It is to be recalled in this connection that the gravity of the problem of HCV transmission in the Georgian prisons, as well as the role of the above-mentioned screening in minimising the spread of this disease, was already acknowledged by the Court in its leading case on the matter, Poghosyan v. Georgia (cited above, § 69; see also Ghavtadze, cited above, §§ 103-105). In the instant case the applicant did not have a screening test for HCV during the first three years of his detention. Even subsequently, after the appearance of the first HCV symptoms, his request for the relevant medical examination was dismissed by the prison authorities and he was obliged to obtain a medical examination at his own expense (see paragraph 11 above). The Court finds this negligence on the part of the relevant prison authorities to be incompatible with the respondent State’s general obligation to take effective measures aimed at preventing the transmission of HCV and other contagious diseases in the prison sector (see paragraphs 30-32 above).” Para. 44.