Khudobin v. Russia

Application No. 59696/00; (2006) ECHR 898
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Mr. Khudobin, a Russian national, filed an application against the Russian Government for allegedly violating several articles of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”).

The applicant was arrested after he was caught supplying heroin to an undercover police agent. He was placed in custody during pre-trial investigations and held until the criminal proceedings were discontinued thirteen months later.  Russian law prohibited any form of entrapment or incitement by police.

The applicant had a history of chronic illnesses, including epilepsy, pancreatitis, hepatitis and mental deficiencies, and doctors had recommended out-patient psychiatric supervision. On admission to the detention center, he was tested and found to be HIV-positive and still have mental deficiencies but was competent to stand trial. During the trial he underwent three psychiatric exams that ultimately concluded that he was legally insane at the time of the crime. The applicant was discharged from criminal liability due to his mental condition.

In the present application, the applicant alleged that he did not receive adequate medical assistance at the detention facility and was subject to inhuman and degrading treatment. The applicant claimed that his health sharply deteriorated in detention where he contracted measles, bronchitis, and repetitive pneumonias, and had several epileptic seizures. The Government maintained that the applicant had received the necessary treatment and his state of health was assessed as “satisfactory” on multiple occasions.

Secondly, the applicant complained that the domestic courts extended his detention several times, despite his growing health problems, without offering any justifications. The Government insisted that the applicant’s continued detention was necessary because of the severity of the charges, the risk of absconding, and the applicant’s character.

Thirdly, the applicant alleged that his applications for release were reviewed with severe delays or not reviewed at all. The Government argued that the courts needed time to carry out expert examinations of the applicant’s mental state, which led to delays in examining his applications for release.

The Court[GA1]  found that the Russian Government had violated Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition on torture and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment) by failing to providing adequate medical treatment and subjecting the applicant to inhuman conditions of detention. The Court accepted the applicant’s description of the facts as the government could not refute the allegations even though the events occurred presumably with the knowledge of the prison authorities. The Court found that the lack of anxiety caused by the lack of medical assistance that was compounded by his HIV-positive status and serious mental disorders, combined with his physical sufferings, amounted to a violation.

The Court found that the Government had violated Article 5 § 3 (right to judicial review) of the Convention as the trial court had not articulated any reasons, let alone reasons that were “relevant and sufficient,” to justify keeping the applicant in pre-trial detention.

The Court found that the Government had violated Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy trial) of the Convention bythe trial court’s excessive delays to review the two applications for release and for the appellate court not reviewing his application.

The Court found that the Government had violated Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) as the trial court had not analyzed to see whether the appellant had been entrapped.

“In exceptional cases, where the state of a detainee’s health is absolutely incompatible with detention, Article 3 may require the release of such a person under certain conditions.… There are three particular elements to be considered in relation to the compatibility of the applicant’s health with his stay in detention: (a) the medical condition of the prisoner, (b) the adequacy of the medical assistance and care provided in detention; and (c) the advisability of maintaining the detention measure in view of the state of health of the applicant” (Para. 92) “However, Article 3 cannot be construed as laying down a general obligation to release detainees on health grounds. It rather imposes an obligation on the State to protect the physical well-being of persons deprived of their liberty. ” (Para. 93) “What is more, the applicant was HIV-positive and suffered from a serious mental disorder. This increased the risks associated with any illness he suffered during his detention and intensified his fears on that account. In these circumstances the absence of qualified and timely medical assistance, added to the authorities’ refusal to allow an independent medical examination of his state of health, created such a strong feeling of insecurity that, combined with his physical sufferings, it amounted to degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3.” (Para. 96)