ECHR: Detention conditions in Romanian prisons are in breach of European Convention of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled, in a judgment issued on Tuesday, April 25, that detention conditions in Romanian prisons are in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights and “point to a structural deficiency requiring the adoption of general measures by the state.”

The Romanian Government has six months to come up with measures to reduce overcrowding and improve detention conditions. The ECHR’s decision comes as Romania’s Parliament is currently discussing a law that would pardon thousands of convicts.

The court made the ruling in the “Rezvimes and others vs. Romania” case and decided to apply the pilot judgment procedure, finding that the “applicants’ situation was part of a general problem originating in a structural dysfunction specific to the Romanian prison system.”

The court asked the Romanian Government to establish, in six months, a timetable for implementing measures to reduce overcrowding and improve detention conditions.

In the “Rezvimes and others vs. Romania” case, the ECHR found a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment.

Romanian nationals Daniel Arpad Rezmiveş, Marius Mavroian, Laviniu Moşmonea, and Iosif Gazsi complained, among other things, of overcrowding in their cells, inadequate sanitary facilities, lack of hygiene, poor-quality food, dilapidated equipment, and the presence of rats and insects in the cells.

The court found that “the conditions of the applicants’ detention, also taking into account the length of their incarceration, had subjected them to hardship going beyond the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention.” The four were detained in Gherla, Aiud, Oradea, Craiova, Târgu-Jiu, Pelendava, Rahova, Tulcea, Iaşi and Vaslui prisons, and in the Baia Mare police detention facilities.

The court ruled that Romania needs to pay EUR 16,000 in non-pecuniary damage, and EUR 1,850 as trial-related costs and expenses. Rezmiveş and Gazsi will receive EUR 3,000 each, while Mavroian and Moşmonea will receive EUR 5,000 each, in non-pecuniary damage. Moşmonea will also receive EUR 1,850 for trial-related costs.

At the same time, the ECHR decided to suspend the examination of any similar complaints concerning overcrowding and poor detention conditions, “not yet communicated to the Romanian government”, until the state presents its set of measures to remedy the situation. The court will continue to examine the cases already communicated to the Romanian government.

In addition to the timetable of measures, the country also needs to introduce preventive and compensatory remedies, allowing judges and courts to “put an end to situations breaching Article 3 of the Convention and award compensation.”

Romanian prisons currently have, on average, 44% more prisoners than their capacity.

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