CASE OF VASS AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA (European Court of Human Rights) 7175/17 and 14 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”) on the various dates indicated in the appended table. The applicants complained of the inadequate conditions of their detention.


FOURTH SECTION
CASE OF VASS AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA
(Application no. 7175/17 and 14 others – see appended list)
JUDGMENT
STRASBOURG
23 June 2022

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

In the case of Vass 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 2 June 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 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, §§ 122‑41, 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, (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 appended table, 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. 12662/19, 48917/19, 50217/19, 53611/19, 56573/19, 60555/19, 62946/19, 63640/19 and 12169/20, the applicants also raised other complaints under Article 3 of the Convention.

15. The Court has examined the applications listed in the appended table 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 for the periods 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 23 June 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. 7175/17

03/01/2017

Mihai-Claudiu VASS

1990

Vasile Rareş Biro

Satu Mare

Bihor County Police Station, Oradea and Satu Mare Prisons

09/09/2013 to

28/01/2016

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

20 day(s)

 

Satu Mare Prison

02/02/2016 to

16/11/2016

9 month(s) and 15 day(s)

1.30 – 2.77 m²

 

 

overcrowding (save for the periods 14/01/2014 – 21/05/2014, 17/06/2014 – 02/03/2015, 03/12/2015 – 09/02/2016 and 10/05/2016 – 16/11/2016), lack or inadequate furniture, lack of or poor quality of bedding and bed linen, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities

 

 

3,000
2. 12662/19

08/05/2019

Mircea NEGREA

1981

 

 

Baia Mare Prison

15/07/2020 to

17/03/2021

8 month(s) and 3 day(s)

1.82 – 2.19 m² overcrowding, lack of or insufficient natural light, lack or inadequate furniture, lack of fresh air, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities 276 days in compensation for a total period of 1,391 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 12/01/2015 to 23/12/2019, including all the days spent in Gherla and Baia Mare Prisons, except for short periods spent in infirmary or transit rooms

 

1,000
3. 45532/19

05/11/2019

Zoltan BOGDAN

1987

 

 

Târgu Mureș Prison

23/12/2019 to

13/03/2020

2 month(s) and 20 day(s)

 

Târgu Mureș Prison

11/05/2020 to

10/07/2020

2 month(s)

2.37 – 2.87 m²

 

 

overcrowding (save for the periods 11/02/2020 – 13/03/2020 and 11/05/2020 – 15/05/2020), lack of fresh air, lack or inadequate furniture, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, poor quality of food

 

 

78 days in compensation for a total period of 403 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 17/01/2018 to 09/05/2018 and from 08/03/2019 to 22/12/2019, including all the period spent in Târgu Mureș Prison 1,000
4. 48917/19

31/10/2019

Petru CREȚU

1996

 

 

Giurgiu Prison

01/11/2018 to

13/11/2018

13 day(s)

 

Giurgiu Prison

03/02/2020 to

28/02/2020

26 day(s)

overcrowding (save for the period 01/11/2018 – 13/11/2018), lack of or insufficient natural light, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of fresh air 264 days in compensation for a total period of 1,322 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 25/06/2015 to 22/12/2019, including all the periods spent in Giurgiu Prison, except for the first period indicated in column no. 5 1,000
5. 50217/19

08/01/2020

Valentin PATRICHI

1983

 

 

Galați and Brăila Prisons

23/12/2019 to

12/11/2021

1 year(s) and 10 month(s) and 21 day(s)

2.25 m² overcrowding, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, poor quality of food, inadequate temperature, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities 96 days in compensation for a total period of 501 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 29/06/2018 to 22/12/2019, including all the periods spent in Brăila, Tulcea and Galați Prisons, expert for the days spent in infirmary 3,000
6. 53611/19

26/11/2019

Péter-Levente KERESZTES

1971

 

 

Arad Prison

11/06/2018 to

10/08/2021

3 year(s) and 2 month(s)

lack or inadequate furniture, no or restricted access to warm water, lack of fresh air, inadequate temperature, mouldy or dirty cell 84 days in compensation for a total period of 445 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 12/05/2016 to 11/06/2018, including all the periods spent in Oradea Prison 3,000
7. 56573/19

22/11/2019

Daniel DUMITRU

1990

 

 

Găești Prison

18/12/2019 to

23/06/2021

1 year(s) and 6 month(s) and 6 day(s)

infestation of cell with insects/rodents, mouldy or dirty cell, lack or inadequate furniture, lack of or insufficient physical exercise in fresh air, poor quality of food 366 days in compensation for a total period of 1,847 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 14/11/2014 to 18/12/2019, including all the periods spent in the detention facilities he complained of, except for the period 10/09/2018 – 13/09/2018 spent in a transit room 3,000
8. 57583/19

24/12/2019

Nicolae BALDOVIN

1977

 

 

Mioveni (Colibași), Bucharest – Jilava and Craiova Prisons

13/04/2007 to

12/05/2009

2 year(s) and 1 month(s)

 

Mioveni (Colibași)

19/05/2009 to

12/07/2011

2 year(s) and 1 month(s) and 24 day(s)

 

Mioveni (Colibași)

19/07/2011 to

24/07/2012

1 year(s) and 6 day(s)

 

Mioveni (Colibași) and Târgu Jiu Prisons

23/12/2019 to

22/10/2020

10 month(s)

1.35 – 2.94 m²

 

 

 

 

 

 

overcrowding (save for the periods 04/02/2020 – 24/02/2020 and 29/07/2020 – 22/10/2020), poor quality of food, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, no or restricted access to warm water, lack of fresh air

 

 

 

 

 

 

540 days in compensation for a total period of 2,703 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 22/12/2019 in Mioveni (Colibași) and Târgu Jiu Prisons, except for the periods spent in Mioveni (Colibași) Prison Hospital, of which he did not complain 5,000
9. 60555/19

16/12/2019

Florian LAZĂR

1967

 

 

Craiova – Pelendava Prison

23/12/2019 to

26/02/2021

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

2.57 m² overcrowding, poor quality of food, lack of toiletries, lack of fresh air, lack of or insufficient natural light 324 days in compensation for a total period of 1,633 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 24/06/2015 to 22/12/2019, including all the periods spent in Craiova, Giurgiu and Craiova – Pelendava Prisons 3,000
10. 62946/19

10/02/2020

Adrian MARIN

1974

 

 

Bucharest – Jilava Prison

23/12/2019 to

08/07/2020

6 month(s) and 16 day(s)

1.94 – 2.64 m² overcrowding, no or restricted access to shower, poor quality of food, lack of or insufficient physical exercise in fresh air, mouldy or dirty cell 198 days in compensation for a total period of 1,001 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 28/02/2017 to 22/12/2019, except for the days spent in prison hospitals, infirmary or transit rooms

 

1,000
11. 63351/19

29/01/2020

Constantin-Adrian ZALINSCHE

1988

 

 

Botoșani and Găești Prisons

23/12/2019 to

18/05/2021

1 year(s) and 4 month(s) and 26 day(s)

overcrowding (save for the period 23/12/2019 – 08/10/2020), mouldy or dirty cell, poor quality of food, lack of or insufficient natural light, infestation of cell with insects/rodents 522 days in compensation for a total period of 2,626 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 07/10/2012 to 22/12/2019, including all the periods spent in Botoșani County Police Station, Botoșani, Iași and Găești Prisons 3,000
12. 63640/19

30/01/2020

Marian-Florian RADA

1977

 

 

Mioveni Prison

23/12/2019 to

10/08/2020

7 month(s) and 19 day(s)

overcrowding, lack of or insufficient natural light, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, poor quality of food, infestation of cell with insects/rodents 534 days in compensation for a total period of 2,697 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 24/07/2012 to 22/12/2019, including all the periods spent in Mioveni Prison 1,000
13. 64780/19

20/01/2020

Gigel BARBU

1972

 

 

Tulcea Prison

23/12/2019 to

04/02/2021

1 year(s) and 1 month(s) and 13 day(s)

1.7 – 2.4 m² overcrowding, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, mouldy or dirty cell, poor quality of food 162 days in compensation for a total period of 826 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 18/09/2017 to 22/12/2019, including all the periods spent in Tulcea Prison 3,000
14. 64847/19

20/01/2020

Ionuț MARIA

1983

 

 

Bucharest – Jilava Prison

23/12/2019 to

14/10/2020

9 month(s) and 22 day(s)

2.39 m² overcrowding, no or restricted access to warm water, mouldy or dirty cell, lack of fresh air, poor quality of food 78 days in compensation for a total period of 417 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 01/11/2018 to 22/12/2019 1,000
15. 12169/20

19/02/2020

Gheorghe COJOCARIU

1951

 

 

Miercurea Ciuc, Iași and Bacău Prisons

23/12/2019 to

14/01/2022

2 year(s) and 23 day(s)

1.44 – 2.97 m² overcrowding (save for the periods 23/12/2019 – 21/02/2020, 24/03/2020 – 10/06/2020, 02/07/2020 – 08/07/2020 and 04/09/2020 – 16/12/2020), mouldy or dirty cell, infestation of cell with insects/rodents, lack of or inadequate hygienic facilities, lack of fresh air 96 days in compensation for a total period of 492 days spent in detention in inadequate conditions from 25/04/2018 to 23/12/2019, except for the periods spent in infirmary or transit rooms 3,000

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

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