Kalashnikov v. Russia

App. No. 47095/99, 36 Eur. H.R. Rep. 34 (2003).

Applicant, Russian national and President of the Northeast Commercial Bank, was accused of embezzlement and placed in detention. According to the applicant, he was detained in overcrowded and unsanitary cells, which occasionally contained inmates suffering from tuberculosis and syphilis. Moreover, the cells had inadequate toilet facilities, insufficient ventilation, and pest infestations. As a result the applicant suffered from sleep deprivation, was exposed to considerable second-hand smoke, contracted a variety of skin diseases, fungal infections, scabies and other chronic diseases including gastroduodenitis and neurocirculatory dystonia.

The applicant claimed the conditions and length of his detention violated his rights guaranteed under Article 3 (Prohibition of torture), Articles 5 § 3 (Right to liberty and security), and 6 § 1 (Right to a fair trial).

The Court concluded that the conditions of the detention—in particular the severely overcrowded and unsanitary environment which caused detrimental effects to the applicant’s health and well-being—combined with the length of the period during which the applicant was detained in such conditions, amounted to a degrading treatment.

Particularly, the Court found the deprivation of sleep constituted a heavy physical and psychological burden on the applicant: constant lighting, the general commotion and noise from large number of inmates, and the acute overcrowding meant that inmates had to sleep in shifts. The Court also criticized the conditions of the cell to which the applicant was confined between twenty-two and twenty-three hours daily: the Court mentioned specifically the inadequate toilet facilities, the exposure to second-hand smoke due to inadequate ventilation, and the generally unsanitary state of the cell, remarking that the applicant’s various skin diseases and fungal infections illustrated the very poor conditions to which he was subjected. The Court also noted its grave concern that the applicant was detained on occasions with persons suffering from syphilis and tuberculosis.

While the Court remarked that there was no indication of a positive intention of humiliating or debasing the applicant, the conditions of detention caused the applicant mental suffering, humiliation and debasement, and accordingly diminished his human dignity. As such, the applicant’s rights pursuant to Article 3 were violated. While the Court accepted that the authorities’ reasons for detaining the applicant were legitimate and relevant initially (fear the applicant would interfere with the investigation along with the suspicion that he had committed serious offences), they lost this character as time passed. As such, the applicant’s lengthy pre-trial detention of over 4 years violated Article 5 § 3 of the Convention, as the requisite public interest in continual detention was absent.

Finally—given that the applicant was being detained in custody (a situation calling for the particularly expeditious administering of justice), the national authorities contributed to the delay, and the case was not complex relative to the delay—the Court found there had a been a breach of Article 6 § 1 as the length of the proceedings did not satisfy the “reasonable time” requirement.

"97. ...The Court further observes the absence of adequate ventilation in the applicant's cell which held an excessive number of inmates and who apparently were permitted to smoke in the cell. Although the applicant was allowed outdoor activity for one or two hours a day, the rest of the time he was confined to his cell, with a very limited space for himself and a stuffy atmosphere." Page 19-20

"98. ...The Court also notes with grave concern that the applicant was detained on occasions with persons suffering from syphilis and tuberculosis, although the Government stressed that contagion was prevented." Page 20.

"101. The Court accepts that in the present case there is no indication that there was a positive intention of humiliating or debasing the applicant. However, although the question whether the purpose of the treatment was to humiliate or debase the victim is a factor to be taken into account, the absence of any such purpose cannot exclude a finding of violation of Article 3 (see Peers v. Greece cited above). It considers that the conditions of detention, which the applicant had to endure for approximately 4 years and 10 months, must have caused him considerable mental suffering, diminishing his human dignity and arousing in him such feelings as to cause humiliation and debasement." Page 20-21.