The detention conditions in Romanian penitentiaries conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights and show a structural dysfunctionality that requires the state to adopt general measures, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday.
Romania has six months at its disposal to establish a timetable to resolve the prison situation.
ECHR has ruled that Romania must pay a total of 16,000 euros in moral damages and 1,850 euros in court expenses. The ruling came after the European Court received complaints about detention conditions in Romania from Daniel Arpad Rezmives, Laviniu Mosmonea, Marius Mavroian and Iosif Gazsi.
Thus, Rezmives and Gaszi will receive 3,000 euros apiece, while Mavroian and Mosmonea will receive 5,000 euros apiece. Moreover, Mosmonea will receive 1,850 euros to cover the court expenses.
The seven-judge panel unanimously decided that Romania broke Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhumane or degrading treatments.
Among other things, the complainants complained of overcrowded cells, sanitary facilities and lack of hygiene, the poor quality of the food, the presence of rats and insects in the cells.
The European Court decided to issue a pilot decision in this case, deeming that the situation outlined by the complainants shows the existence of a general problem which stems from a structural dysfunction specific to the Romanian prison system.
In these conditions, the ECHR is asking Romania to lower the overcrowding of prisons and to improve detention conditions. The court gives the state the right to establish what concrete measures it must take to solve the problems, nevertheless pointing out that if the state cannot guarantee – for each convict – detention conditions in line with Article 3 of the Convention then it recommends the lowering of the prison population.
Moreover, the state must implement channels for “recourse to preventive actions” and “recourse to specific compensatory actions,” according to the ECHR decision. “Resorting to preventive actions must allow the judge that oversees the serving of jail time and the courts to put an end to a situation that violates Article 3 of the Convention and to pay damages. Resorting to specific compensatory actions must allow the payment of proper damages in case of any violation of the Convention in what concerns insufficient living space and/or precarious material conditions,” the Court announced on its website.
In these conditions, the ECHR has decided to suspend the analysis of similar complaints for a period of six months, until Bucharest presents a plan of measures to resolve the situation.
The complaints lodged with the ECHR and the court’s conclusions
Invoking Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhumane or degrading treatment, the complainants lodged complaints against the detention conditions in the Gherla, Aiud, Oradea, Craiova, Targu-Jiu, Pelendava, Rahova, Tulcea, Iasi and Vaslui prisons and the detention conditions in the Baia Mare Police cells. They lodged their complaints with the ECHR in 2012 and 2013.
The court noted that the personal space allocated to the complainants was, for most of the time they spent in jail, smaller than three square metres. Moreover, they did not have natural light in their cells, their daily walks were very brief, the toilets were unsanitary and sometimes did not have separate stalls. Rezmives did not benefit from sufficient socio-cultural activities, Mavroian did not have sufficient access to warm water, Mosmonea suffered because of the improper ventilation of the cells, the mould fungus, the insects and rats, the worn-out mattresses and the poor quality of the food, while Gaszi complained of improper hygiene-sanitary conditions, the Court pointed out.
The ECHR emphasised that these conditions do not represent, by themselves, inhumane or degrading treatment, but bearing in mind that they caused supplementary suffering to the complainants and that they are not isolated cases, they violate Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Monday that he is hoping for a balanced decision that would show understanding for the concrete conditions in Romanian penitentiary. “The Government has initiated a series of consistent measures to remove the precarious conditions, to meet the exigencies established by the Human Rights Convention, the Romanian legislation and the ECHR jurisprudence: modernising penitentiaries, building new penitentiaries, the law granting pardons, the law on the recourse to compensatory measures,” the Justice Minister pointed out.
He also stated that after the ECHR takes its decision he will present a roadmap for meeting the Court’s demands.
Justice Ministry to continue efforts for fixing situation regarding detention conditions in prison system
Justice Ministry (MJ) reiterated, in the context of the pilot judgment that was announced by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the commitment to continue the efforts related to straightening out the detention conditions in the Romanian prison system in order to comply with the standard imposed by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and by the ECHR jurisprudence.
According to a press release of the MJ sent to AGERPRES on Tuesday, the ECHR requested the Romanian state that, within 6 months from the date of the final ruling, to present, in cooperation with the Ministers’ Committee of the Council of Europe, a calendar for enforcing the measures that will solve the matter of prisons’ overcrowding and detention conditions.
According to the Court ruling, Romania is expected to take administrative measures, thus reducing overcrowding and improving the material conditions of detention and legislative measures that will ensure an efficient appeal for the wronging inflicted, namely preventive appeal and specific compensatory appeal.
Moreover, the Court mentions, as example, a series of additional measures that can be analyzed by the Gov’t in order to solve the issue of detention conditions, namely improving the functioning of the probation system and simplifying the access to the parole procedure.
“Within the decision, the Court took note of the progresses recorded by Romania, appreciated the measures adopted by the Romanian state that would lead to the decrease of prisons’ overcrowding phenomenon and encouraged it to continue the efforts in this direction,” the release mentions.
The MJ underscores that the ECHR doesn’t enforce “any pecuniary sanction for the Romanian state for the systemic problem reported (the prison conditions), granting fair satisfaction to the complainants in question,” namely 17,850 euros for four complainants, as moral damage and trial costs.
Furthermore, it’s been revealed that through the pilot judgment, the Court decided to postpone examining similar cases that weren’t sent to Romania’s Gov’t, until the measure plan is adopted.
“The Justice Ministry will continue to implement the measures comprised in the Memorandum regarding the calendar of measures that are necessary for improving detention conditions and probation system, approved by the Government of Romania in April 2016,” the release mentions.
Grindeanu : I had a talk with Toader. I’m convinced he’ll come up with the plan of measures at the appropriate rhythm
Premier Sorin Grindeanu stated on Tuesday, following the ECHR’s decision on detention conditions in Romanian penitentiaries, that he already had talks with Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, and that he is convinced he will come up, “at the appropriate rhythm,” with the plan of measures that our country must adopt during the six-month period established by the European Court. The Premier emphasised that the ECHR decision proves that the problems of the Romanian penitentiaries are not made up.
“The decision forces us to come up, over the six-month period, with a concrete plan with which both the Council of Ministers and the Romanian Government agree, so that the problem noted by the ECHR would start to be resolved, because this decision comes as a result of the problems that exist in Romanian penitentiaries. So, as a result of these problems, we have this decision that gives us a six-month deadline within which we must come up with these measures,” Grindeanu stated.
He said that he had talks with the Justice Minister, on this topic, a few minutes before making the statement.
“I’m convinced he will come up with this plan of measures at the appropriate rhythm, so that during the 6 months we would manage to approve this plan, to take concrete steps and eventually to do in six months’ time things that should have been done in the last 26 years,” the Premier pointed out.
Asked whether, in his opinion, this six-month deadline is sufficient, the Head of Government said: “During the six months we have time to draft this plan extremely well. Those measures must be part of this plan, the period of implementation set to follow. But I want them to be very well-set and that was precisely the point of my talk with Minister Toader. There’s sufficient time to draft this plan of measures, to take concrete measures, not just to draft this plan, and to show we are determined to observe – and I’ll emphasise this, to observe – the ECHR decision and to improve conditions in penitentiaries, conditions that we now see are not made up, are not things that only some are saying, it was proven today that they are extremely grave things.”