YENOKYAN v. ARMENIA (European Court of Human Rights)

Communicated on 5 April 2019

FIRST SECTION

Application no. 10761/16
Mher YENOKYAN
against Armenia
lodged on 22 February 2016

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The applicant, Mr Mher Yenokyan, is an Armenian national who was born in 1975 and is detained in Yerevan. He is represented before the Court by Ms O.V. Preobrazhenskaya, residing in Strasbourg.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.

The applicant has been serving his life sentence in Nubarashen remand prison (“the Prison”) since his conviction of 29 November 1996. He submits that, as the Prison had been designed for detaining accused persons for short periods of time pending trial, it was not suitable for holding persons convicted to life imprisonment.

1.  Physical conditions of detention

Since 2005, the applicant has been detained in cell no. 77. The size of that cell is approximately 20 sq. m. The cell contains 4 metal beds. The maximum number of detainees in the cell has been 4.

The applicant complains, in particular, of the following physical conditions of his detention: lack of sufficient natural light and fresh air; lack of heating and ventilation; lack of segregation of smoking and non-smoking inmates; poor hygiene and unsanitary conditions, such as a dilapidated toilet with inadequate partition; lack of adequate sleeping arrangements (steel beds with uneven surface) and dining environment; dilapidated state of the cell, for example a damp, leaking ceiling with mould, as well as constant humidity and foul smell; inadequate arrangements for outdoor walks (1‑3 times a week for an hour between 2003 and 2014, and every day from 2014); insufficient food of inadequate quality, as a result of which he had to arrange his own food with the help of his family; inadequate possibilities for personal hygiene, such as insufficient time to take a shower in an unsanitary and dilapidated shower facility.

2.  Communication with relatives

The applicant is granted a long visit of up to three days from his relatives once a year. Shorter visits for an hour are granted three times a year.

Long meetings have often been organised in a room without any windows or adequate ventilation, as a result of which relatives did not feel well and had to terminate the visit early.

On 11 July 2012, the applicant filed a complaint with the Prison administration seeking to organise his long meeting with his relatives in a room with natural sunlight. He reasoned that during one of his long visits, his father had had to leave earlier due to feeling unwell in a room without sunlight and ventilation.

On 8 August 2012 a prison officer responded that the applicant’s request was satisfied.

He filed a similar request in 2014, which was also granted.

During the short meetings, the applicant and his visitor were separated by a glass partition and communicated through speakers.

B.  Relevant domestic law

1.  Penitentiary Code (2005)

Article 92 § 2 provides that detainees sentenced to life-imprisonment are entitled to one long visit (up to 3 days) and three short visits (up to 4 hours each) by family members each year. Such limitation of visits terminates on the date when the detainee becomes eligible for early conditional release in accordance with the Criminal Code.

2.  Criminal Code (2003)

According to Article 76 § 5, persons sentenced to life-imprisonment become eligible for early conditional release, if they have already served twenty years in prison.

3.  Decree of the Government no. 431-N on average daily portion of food for persons held in penitentiary institutions (adopted on 1 April 2003 and lost its legal effect on 31 October 2015)

According to the Decree, each detainee was entitled to the following types and quantity of food: bread (650 g), grains (120 g), pasta (30 g), meat with and without bone (180g and 90 g, respectively), milk (milk powder) (100 g), fish (100 g without head), animal fat, margarine (45 g), sugar (40 g), salt (20 g), tea (2 g), tomato paste (5 g), potatoes (550 g), vegetables (250 g), juice (100 g), cheese (25 g), fruits (200 g).

4.  Decree of the Government no. 1182-N on average daily portion of food for persons held in penitentiary institutions (in force from 31 October 2015, replacing the Decree no. 431-N)

The Decree includes all types of food in the same quantity contained in the Decree no. 431-N. In addition, it also prescribes 25 g of vegetable oil for each detainee on a daily basis.

COMPLAINTS

The applicant complains under Article 3 of the Convention of the conditions of his detention in Nubarashen remand prison.

The applicant raises several complaints under Article 8 of the Convention regarding the family visits at Nubarashen remand prison. In particular, he complains of (a) the limitations on his family visits, (b) the conditions in which his long visits were held and (c) the duration of the short visits and separation during those visits by a glass partition.

The applicant complains under Article 13 of the Convention that he had no effective remedy in respect of his complaints under Articles 3 and 8.

QUESTIONS TO THE PARTIES

1.  Did the conditions of the applicant’s detention at Nubarashen remand prison amount to treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention (see, in particular, Muršić v. Croatia [GC], no. 7334/13, §§ 103-141, ECHR 2016; Alver v. Estonia, no. 64812/01, § 56, 8 November 2005)?

2.  Did the limitation of the applicant’s family visits, as well as the manner of conduct of those visits (in particular (a) the conditions in which long visits were held, namely lack of windows, adequate ventilation, lighting and fresh air in the visiting room (b) duration of short visits and (c) separation by a glass partition during short visits) in Nubarashen remand prison breach his right to family life, as guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention (see Khoroshenko v. Russia [GC], no. 41418/04, § 148, ECHR 2015, and Trosin v. Ukraine, no. 39758/05, §§ 42-46, 23 February 2012)?

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