CASE OF BĂLUI AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA (European Court of Human Rights) 5077/15 and 19 others

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”). The applicants complained of the inadequate conditions of their detention.


FOURTH SECTION
CASE OF BĂLUI AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA
(Applications nos. 5077/15 and 19 others – see appended list)
JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
5 May 2022

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

In the case of Bălui 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 7 April 2022,

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 principally 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. The Government raised a preliminary objection concerning loss of victim status by some of the applicants 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 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 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, §§ 122‑141, and Ananyev and Others v. Russia, nos. 42525/07 and 60800/08, §§ 149‑159, 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 and the arguments raised by the parties, including the Government’s objection related to the non‑exhaustion of domestic remedies in some cases, 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, (including its findings in the recent case of Polgar v. Romania, no. 39412/19, §§ 94-97, 20 July 2021), the Court considers that in the instant case the applicants’ conditions of detention, as described in the table appended bellow, were inadequate.

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

III. REMAINING COMPLAINTS

14. In applications nos. 5077/15, 9635/15, 8785/16, 18189/16, 23665/16, 24590/16, 27283/16, 28169/16, 28518/16, 36266/16, 36584/16, 43704/16, 52022/16, 61416/16 and 54392/17 the applicants also raised other complaints under Article 3 of the Convention.

15. The Court has examined these applications and considers that, in the light of all the material in its possession and in so far as the matters complained of are within its competence, these complaints either do not meet the admissibility criteria set out in Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention or do not disclose any appearance of a violation of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention or the Protocols thereto.

It follows that this part of the applications must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 § 4 of the Convention.

IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

16. 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.”

17. 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.

18. 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, for the periods 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, as specified in the appended table below;

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 5 May 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

Representative’s name and location 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 expenses

per applicant

(in euros)[1]

 

1. 5077/15

23/05/2015

Marian BĂLUI

1979

 

 

Mărgineni Prison

24/07/2019 to

11/10/2019

2 month(s) and 18 day(s)

Mioveni and Mărgineni Prisons

12/11/2019 to

30/06/2020

7 month(s) and 19 day(s)

0.8-1.3 m² overcrowding, poor quality of food, lack of or insufficient natural light 444 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 05/12/2019, save for the periods mentioned in Column no. 5 and other short periods of time spent in detention facilities about which he did not complain 1,000
2. 9635/15

10/03/2015

Ioan SIMA

1955

 

 

Gherla Prison

13/07/2012 to

23/07/2012

11 day(s)

Gherla Prison and Dej Prison Hospital

27/09/2012 to

04/10/2013

1 year(s) and 8 day(s)

Gherla Prison and Dej Prison Hospital

05/12/2013 to

06/02/2014

2 month(s) and 2 day(s)

Gherla Prison and Dej Prison Hospital

19/02/2014 to

09/02/2018

3 year(s) and 11 month(s) and 22 day(s)

Arad and Gherla Prisons

08/03/2018 to

02/04/2018

26 day(s)

Arad and Gherla Prisons

10/05/2018 to

27/08/2018

3 month(s) and 18 day(s)

Arad Prison

15/10/2018 to

29/10/2018

15 day(s)

Arad and Gherla Prisons

12/11/2018 to

23/01/2019

2 month(s) and 12 day(s)

Arad Prison

11/02/2019 to

26/08/2019

6 month(s) and 16 day(s)

Arad and Gherla Prisons

12/09/2019 to

27/07/2021

1 year(s) and 10 month(s) and 16 day(s)

1.33-2.42 m² overcrowding (save for certain periods), poor quality of food, infestation of cell with insects/rodents 60 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 19/02/2014 and from 20/02/2018 to 12/09/2019, save for the periods mentioned in Column no. 5 5,000
3. 8785/16

18/03/2016

Laurențiu-Dumitru ANGHEL

1983

 

 

Rahova, Mărgineni, Aiud and Giurgiu Prisons

13/02/2019

pending

More than 3 year(s) and 3 day(s)

2.2-3 m² overcrowding (save for certain periods), infestation of cell with insects/rodents, no or restricted access to toilet 444 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 12/02/2019 3,000
4. 11428/16

22/03/2016

Florian CIURAR

1972

Vasile Rareş Biro

Satu Mare

Bihor Police

09/01/2013 to

03/02/2013

26 day(s)

3.57-4.76 m² overcrowding (the indicated surfaces included the toilet and shower, which were situated in the room), lack or inadequate furniture, lack of fresh air 342 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 04/02/2013 to 07/11/2017 1,000
5. 15656/16

25/04/2016

Marian COSTACHE

1969

Irina Maria Peter

Bucharest

Argeș County Police, Jilava and Rahova Prison Hospitals and Arad, Colibași, Craiova, Giurgiu, Jilava, Rahova and Turnu Severin Prisons

11/11/2002 to

23/07/2012

9 year(s) and 8 month(s) and 13 day(s)

1.1-2.81 m²  overcrowding, poor quality of food, infestation of cell with insects/rodents 348 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 29/01/2018 5,000
6. 18185/16

16/05/2016

Petrică-Valentin DASCĂLU

1968

Irina Maria Peter

Bucharest

Focșani Police, Jilava and Rahova Prison Hospitals and Aiud, Focșani, Galați and Jilava Prisons

18/10/2004 to

23/07/2012

7 year(s) and 9 month(s) and 6 day(s)

0.82.5 m² overcrowding, insufficient number of sleeping places, mouldy or dirty cell, inadequate temperature 510 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 26/07/2019 5,000
7. 18189/16

15/11/2016

Marius BOGDAN

1971

Irina Maria Peter

Bucharest

Dej and Colibași Prison Hospitals and Aiud, Arad, Bistrița, Craiova, Deva and Rahova Prisons

30/06/1994 to

22/06/2016

21 year(s) and 11 month(s) and 24 day(s)

Aiud and Deva Prisons

04/07/2016 to

16/03/2017

8 month(s) and 13 day(s)

Deva Prison

19/04/2017 to

27/04/2017

9 day(s)

1.29-2.87 m² overcrowding (save for specific periods), no or restricted access to toilet, no or restricted access to shower, lack of or insufficient physical exercise in fresh air 5,000
8. 23665/16

11/05/2016

Ion OPREA

1960

Craiova Prison

25/11/2010 to

23/07/2012

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

2.05-2.06 m² overcrowding (save for 30/11-05/12/2010), infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of or restricted access to leisure or educational activities 336 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 27/09/2018, except for periods of time spent in detention facilities he did not complain about 3,000
9. 23762/16

31/05/2016

Mirel POTOCEANU

1978

Irina Maria Peter

Bucharest

Focșani Prison

24/12/2019 to

04/02/2020

1 month(s) and 12 day(s)

Focșani Prison

26/05/2020

pending

More than 1 year(s) and 8 month(s) and 13 day(s)

2.08-2.5 m² overcrowding, bunk beds, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities 240 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 18/09/2015 to 23/12/2019, except for periods of time spent in detention facilities he did not complain about 3,000
10. 24590/16

01/08/2016

Cătălin IFRIM

1981

Aiud, Botoșani, Iasi, Jilava and Rahova Prisons

02/11/2000 to

23/07/2012

11 year(s) and 8 month(s) and 22 day(s)

0.81.9 m² overcrowding, insects, inadequate sanitary facilities, insufficient and poor quality of food, dirty and mouldy cells 408 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 23/12/2019, except for periods of time spent in detention facilities he did not complain about or short periods of time while in transit 5,000
11. 27283/16

13/06/2016

Constantin-Georgel PREDA

1979

 

 

Codlea Prison

04/03/2021

pending

More than 1 year(s) and 14 day(s)

2-2.2 m² overcrowding, insufficient natural light and fresh air, lack of furniture, quality of food 438 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 19/08/2013 to 22/12/2019, except for short periods of time spent in prison hospitals or in transit 3,000
12. 28169/16

12/07/2016

Augustin-Florin DEAC

1990

 

 

Gherla Prison

23/12/2019 to

26/02/2021

1 year(s) and 2 month(s) and 4 day(s)

2.22-2.72 m² overcrowding, inadequate sanitary facilities, poor quality of food/bedding 342 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 07/01/2015 to 23/12/2019, except for short periods of time spent in transit or in facilities where he received medical care 3,000
13. 28518/16

05/07/2016

Florin-Iulian PĂTRAȘC

1976

 

 

Codlea Prison

02/03/2010 to

23/07/2012

2 year(s) and 4 month(s) and 22 day(s)

Codlea Prison

10/03/2020 to

11/06/2020

3 month(s) and 2 day(s)

1.10-1.97 m² overcrowding, poor quality of food, restricted access to warm water, inadequate sanitary facilities 528 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 23/12/2019, except for short periods of time spent in transit or in prison hospitals 3,000
14. 36266/16

14/07/2016

George-Claudiu GEORGESCU-IONACHE

1985

Irina Maria Peter

Bucharest

Giurgiu and Rahova Prisons

21/11/2007 to

23/07/2012

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

Giurgiu Prison

24/12/2019

pending

More than 2 year(s) and 1 month(s) and 16 day(s)

2-2.5 m² overcrowding, insufficient sanitary facilities, lack of fresh air, lack of natural light 534 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 23/12/2019 5,000
15. 36584/16

14/07/2016

Florin CALIMENT

1983

 

 

Codlea Prison

24/12/2019

pending

More than 2 year(s) and 1 month(s) and 16 day(s)

2.52 m² overcrowding, lack of fresh air and natural light, poor quality of food, insects 294 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 09/11/2015 to 23/12/2019 3,000
16. 43704/16

21/07/2016

Săndică PINTILIE

1983

Ionela Mărgărit

Bucharest

Brăila Prison

24/12/2019 to

21/01/2020

29 day(s)

2.52 m² overcrowding, poor quality of food/water/bedding, insects, dirty and mouldy cell 534 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 23/12/2019 1,000
17. 52022/16

28/09/2016

Marius-Cosmin ANDRONACHE

1987

 

 

Mărgineni and Galați Prisons

24/12/2019 to

06/10/2020

9 month(s) and 13 day(s)

Galați Prison

22/10/2020

pending

More than 1 year(s) and 4 month(s) and 21 day(s)

2-2.25 m² overcrowding (save for 28/01/2020-03/03/2020), no or restricted access to shower, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen 246 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 27/04/2016 to 23/12/2019 3,000
18. 61416/16

28/11/2016

Cornel-Marius SFECLĂ

1982

 

 

Giugiu Prison

03/11/2010 to

23/07/2012

1 year(s) and 8 month(s) and 21 day(s)

2.80-2.87 m² overcrowding, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of or insufficient natural light, poor quality of food 438 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 12/04/2018 and from 14/08/2019 to 23/12/2019 3,000
19. 24156/17

20/03/2017

Isus-Gheorghe GHIULAI

1992

Ioan Cătălin Daniel Trif

Satu Mare

Maramureş County Police

04/07/2014 to

23/07/2014

20 day(s)

Arad Prison

26/09/2015 to

10/12/2015

2 month(s) and 15 day(s)

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 quantity of food 210 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2014 to 25/09/2015 and from 11/12/2015 to 19/10/2017 1,000
20. 54392/17

21/07/2017

Aurel NĂSTASE

1976

Andreea-Gabriela Cadar

Galați

Brăila, Galaţi, Gherla, Iași, Slobozia and Poarta Albă Prisons

19/04/2010 to

23/07/2012

2 year(s) and 3 month(s) and 5 day(s)

1.2-2.33 m² overcrowding, bunk beds, mouldy or dirty cell, lack of fresh air, lack of or insufficient natural light, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities 384 days in compensation for a total period of detention spent in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 15/11/2017 3,000

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

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