Kudla v. Poland

App. No. 30210/96, 35 Eur. H.R. Rep. 198 (2000).

Applicant, a Polish national suffering from chronic depression, alleged violations of Articles 3 (prohibition of torture), 5.3 (trial within a reasonable time), 6.1 (unreasonably long proceedings), and 13 (effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The applicant was in detention for fraud charges. While in prison, he attempted suicide twice and went on a hunger strike. The applicant repeatedly requested his release and appealed decisions to hold him in detention.

The applicant claimed he had not received adequate psychiatric treatment in detention: he was held in a facility where there had been no psychiatric ward, no serious effort to treat his chronic depression had been made despite repeated suicide attempts, and authorities took no notice of doctors’ reports on his state. The applicant argued that, in addition to threatening his life, his continued detention and the failure to provide him adequate medical assistance amounted to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention.

The applicant also claimed that his detention on remand had been excessive, alleging a violation of Article 5.3. The applicant submitted that the authorities had failed to give sufficient grounds for his four years in pre-trial detention. Namely, there had been no valid reason justifying his detention, in light of the sufficiency of bail or police supervision for securing his presence at trial.

Owing to the delays caused by the judicial authorities themselves, such as an excessive number of witnesses, an improperly constituted court which resulted in a mistrial, and other general inefficiencies, the applicant claimed the State had violated Article 6.1 of the Convention. The Government submitted that the case was complex, maintaining that the applicant had substantially contributed to prolonging the proceedings as he had failed to appear at a number of hearings and that his psychiatric observation and hospitalization had also caused delays.

The Court did not find the applicant was subjected to ill-treatment sufficiently severe to come within the scope of Article 3 of the Convention. While the Court accepted that the very nature of the applicant’s psychological condition made him more vulnerable than the average detainee and that his detention may have exacerbated his feelings of distress, anguish and fear, he had received adequate medical attention and had been examined by a psychiatrist regularly.

The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5.3 of the Convention. The Court stated that the genuine requirement of public interest in denying the applicant liberty and the benefits of the presumption of innocence was lacking. While the Court agreed that suspicion that the applicant may abscond could initially suffice to warrant his detention, these grounds became less relevant as time passed and, ultimately, reasons relied on by the authorities were insufficient to justify the length of the applicant’s detention.

The Court found that the length of the trial was not justified by the complexity of the case and that the authorities’ actions were incompatible with the diligence required under Article 6.1. An expeditious administration of justice was particularly incumbent upon them as the applicant was in custody suffering from serious depression.

Finally, the Court held there had been a violation of Article 13 of the Convention in that the applicant had no domestic remedy whereby he could enforce his rights under Article 6.1 of the Convention.

"93. Measures depriving a person of his liberty may often involve such an element. Yet it cannot be said that the execution of detention on remand in itself raises an issue under Article 3 of the Convention. Nor can that Article be interpreted as laying down a general obligation to release a detainee on health grounds or to place him in a civil hospital to enable him to obtain a particular kind of medical treatment."

"94. Nevertheless, under this provision the State must ensure that a person is detained in conditions which are compatible with respect for his human dignity, that the manner and method of the execution of the measure do not subject him to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention and that, given the practical demands of imprisonment, his health and well-being are adequately secured by, among other things, providing him with the requisite medical assistance (see, mutatis mutandis, the Aerts v. Belgium judgment of 30 July 1998, Reports 1998-V, p. 1966, §§ 64 et seq.)."