CASE OF NOVACOVICI AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA (European Court of Human Rights) 34657/16 and 4 others

The applicants complained of the inadequate conditions of their detention.


FOURTH SECTION
CASE OF NOVACOVICI AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA
(Application no. 34657/16 and 4 others – see appended list)
JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
13 January 2022

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Novacovici and Others v. Romania,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Armen Harutyunyan, President,
Jolien Schukking,
Ana Maria Guerra Martins, judges,
and Viktoriya Maradudina, Acting Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 9 December 2021,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1. The case originated in applications against Romania lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) on the various dates indicated in the appended table.

2. The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were given notice of the applications.

THE FACTS

3. The list of applicants and the relevant details of the applications are set out in the appended table.

4. The applicants complained of the inadequate conditions of their detention.

THE LAW

I. JOINDER OF THE APPLICATIONS

5. Having regard to the similar subject matter of the applications, the Court finds it appropriate to examine them jointly in a single judgment.

II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 3 OF THE CONVENTION

6. The applicants complained of the inadequate conditions of their detention. They relied on Article 3 of the Convention, which reads as follows:

Article 3

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

7. In some of the applications, the Government raised a preliminary objection concerning the applicants’ loss of victim status for the periods of detention specified in the appended table because they were afforded adequate redress based on Law no. 169/2017 amending and completing Law no. 254/2013 on the execution of sentences for those specific periods of detention.

8. The Court notes that the domestic remedy introduced in respect of inadequate conditions of detention in Romania and applicable until December 2019 was held to be an effective one in the case of Dîrjan and Ştefan v. Romania ((dec.), nos. 14224/15 and 50977/15, §§ 23-33, 15 April 2020). This remedy was available to some of the applicants in the present applications and they were, indeed, afforded adequate redress for certain periods of detention (for details see the appended table).

9. Therefore, the Court accepts the Government’s objection and finds that these parts of the applications are incompatible ratione personae with the provisions of the Convention and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.

10. Turning to the remaining periods of the applicants’ detention as specified in column no. 4 of the appended table, the Court notes that the applicants were kept in detention in poor conditions. The details of the applicants’ detention are indicated in the appended table. The Court refers to the principles established in its case‑law regarding inadequate conditions of detention (see, for instance, Muršić v. Croatia [GC], no. 7334/13, §§ 96‑101, ECHR 2016). It reiterates in particular that a serious lack of space in a prison cell weighs heavily as a factor to be taken into account for the purpose of establishing whether the detention conditions described are “degrading” from the point of view of Article 3 and may disclose a violation, both alone or taken together with other shortcomings (see Muršić, cited above, §§ 122‑41, and Ananyev and Others v. Russia, nos. 42525/07 and 60800/08, §§ 149‑59, 10 January 2012).

11. In the leading case of Rezmiveș and Others v. Romania (nos. 61467/12 and 3 others, 25 April 2017), the Court already found a violation in respect of issues similar to those in the present case.

12. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court has not found any fact or argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion on the admissibility and merits of these complaints. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that in the instant case the applicants’ conditions of detention, for the periods specified in the appended table, were inadequate.

13. These complaints are therefore admissible and disclose a breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

14. Article 41 of the Convention provides:

“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”

15. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case‑law (see, in particular, Rezmiveș and Others, cited above), the Court considers it reasonable to award the sums indicated in the appended table.

16. The Court further considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,

1. Decides to join the applications;

2. Declares the complaints concerning the inadequate conditions of detention, as specified in the appended table, admissible, and the remainder of the applications inadmissible;

3. Holds that these complaints disclose a breach of Article 3 of the Convention concerning the inadequate conditions of detention for the periods indicated in the appended table;

4. Holds

(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months, the amounts indicated in the appended table, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;

(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 13 January 2022, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Viktoriya Maradudina                                Armen Harutyunyan
Acting Deputy Registrar                                    President

___________

APPENDIX
List of applications raising complaints under Article 3 of the Convention
(inadequate conditions of detention)

No. Application no.

Date of introduction

Applicant’s name

Year of birth

Facility

Start and end date

Duration

Sq. m per inmate Specific grievances Domestic compensation awarded (in days) based on total period calculated domestically Amount awarded for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage and costs and expense per applicant

(in euros)[1]

1. 34657/16

08/06/2016

Dumitru NOVACOVICI

1973

Arad Prison

18/06/2015 to

15/05/2021

5 year(s) and 10 month(s) and 28 day(s)

3 m² infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of fresh air, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, lack of or insufficient physical exercise in fresh air, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen, lack of privacy for toilet, lack of toiletries, lack or inadequate furniture, mouldy or dirty cell, no or restricted access to shower, no or restricted access to warm water, poor quality of food, poor quality of potable water 5,000
2. 35245/16

07/06/2016

Dan-Liviu IOVAN

1967

Arad Prison

27/04/2015 to

17/10/2016

1 year(s) and 5 month(s) and 21 day(s)

3 m²  infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of fresh air, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, lack of or insufficient physical exercise in fresh air, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen, lack of or restricted access to leisure or educational activities, lack or inadequate furniture, lack or insufficient quantity of food, mouldy or dirty cell, no or restricted access to shower, poor quality of food 9 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 11/03/2015 to 27/04/2015 3,000
3. 39753/16

19/09/2016

Iulian STĂNESCU

1982

Bacău County Police, Bacău, Vaslui, Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Iași and Rahova Prisons and Târgu Ocna Prison Hospital

26/09/2009 to

24/07/2012

2 year(s) and 9 month(s) and 29 day(s)

Bacău Prison

28/11/2014 to

09/12/2014

12 day(s)

Târgu Ocna Prison Hospital

01/03/2016 to

15/03/2016

15 day(s)

Iași Prison

21/12/2019 to

18/08/2021

1 year(s) and 7 month(s) and 29 day(s)

1.08-2.7 m²

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

overcrowding, bunk beds, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of fresh air, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, lack of or insufficient natural light, lack of or insufficient physical exercise in fresh air, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen, lack or inadequate furniture, mouldy or dirty cell, no or restricted access to shower, poor quality of food

 

 

 

 

 

 

504 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 20/12/2019, with exception of the periods mentioned in Column no. 4. 3,000
4. 40197/16

22/08/2016

Aurel COVACI

1989

Gherla Prison

21/12/2019 to

14/04/2020

3 month(s) and 25 day(s)

1.18 m² overcrowding, bunk beds, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of fresh air, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen, lack or inadequate furniture, mouldy or dirty cell, no or restricted access to shower, poor quality of food 318 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 11/06/2015 to 20/12/2019 1,000
5. 60736/16

21/11/2016

Aurel PREDA

1976

Bucharest Police detention facilities no. 5, Jilava Prison Hospital, Jilava and Giurgiu Prison

24/07/2007 to

26/03/2014

6 year(s) and 8 month(s) and 3 day(s)

Jilava Prison

24/12/2019

pending

More than 1 year(s) and 10 month(s) and 30 day(s)

1.48-1.98 m²

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

overcrowding (except for the period 19/02/2012-26/03/2014), infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of fresh air, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, lack of or insufficient natural light, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen, lack of privacy for toilet, lack or inadequate furniture, mouldy or dirty cell, no or restricted access to shower, poor quality of food

 

 

534 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 26/03/2014 to 23/12/2019 5,000

[1] Plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants.

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