A prisoner serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence at Timişoara Prison has successfully prosecuted the Romanian government over the conditions of his detention at The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) (in picture). The court found that the conditions of Maxim Silvanus Blejuşcă’s detention contravened Article 3 of the human rights convention, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment. Blejuşcă’s complaint referred specifically to overcrowding and poor hygiene.
The prisoner made a series of complaints over the conditions, including sharing a cell measuring 4-5 meters in length, 3.2 in width and 3 meters high with eight other detainees, one of whom was suffering from syphilis. He also said cell was very cold as the window was broken. Other complaints included dirty, unhygienic conditions, broken bathroom facilities and infestation with parasites. Furthermore, Blejuşcă said inmates were not given exercise time outdoors or offered educational activities, instead they spent long periods in their far from pleasant sounding cell without anything to do.
In defense, the representatives of the Romanian government contested all the claims and gave slightly larger dimensions for the cell. The defense also said Blejuşcă had failed to exhaust all possibilities of redress within the Romanian prison system, which the prisoner contested and the ECHR upheld.
In the end, the ECHR found in favor of the prisoner on the grounds of the size of the cell. According to the court, a minimum space of three square meters is necessary for each prisoner. Using both the prisoner’s and the Romanian government’s measurements, the space per prisoner was below the amount mandated by the human rights convention. Thus, said the court, there was no need to determine the truth of the prisoner’s other claims, as the overcrowding alone was sufficient to find against the Romanian government.
The prisoner had asked for EUR 50,000 in damages; the court awarded EUR 6,600. Maxim Silvanus Blejuşcă was imprisoned in 2009 for robbery. The case was heard at the The European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), in Strasbourg with Josep Casadevall presiding. The court deliberated in private on February 19 and the decision was published today (March 19 ).
Liam Lever, firstname.lastname@example.org
photo source: echr.coe.int