European Court of Human Rights rejects Estonian prisoner’s complaint regarding transport van

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected a complaint by an Estonian prisoner who considered the conditions he would have had to tolerate in a prison transport van as inconsistent with human rights.

“The European Court of Human Rights ruled that there has been no violation of Article 3 of the Convention [for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms] as the floor space of the single occupancy compartment of the prison transport van was comparable to that required, as a minimum standard, for the transport of passengers and the absence of seat belts alone, without other aggravating circumstances, could not attain the minimum level of severity necessary to fall within the scope of Article 3. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights took into account that the applicant spent only a short time in the van compartment on one occasion,” it is said in a court statement published on Tuesday and mediated by the Foreign Ministry.

The prisoner, who appealed the rulings of Estonian courts to the European Court of Rights, found that the prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment was violated in relation to him when he was offered the possibility to travel by a prison transport van from Tartu Prison to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Viljandi County while wearing both hand and ankle cuffs. The floor space of the single occupancy compartment of the van was 0.51 square meters, the van lacked a seat belt as well as handles to hold onto.

“The applicant spent less than half an hour in the transport van, but refused to leave the territory of the prison in such conditions that allegedly posed a life and health threat and were degrading and did not go to his grandmother’s funeral,” the explanation of the ruling said.

“The applicant found that he had sustained non-pecuniary damages as the floor space of the transport van’s single occupancy compartment was smaller than allowed by ECHR, while the conditions also posed a threat to life and health as there were no handles to hold onto. The applicant considered the use of handcuffs and especially ankle cuffs, in which he would have had to attend the funeral, degrading. Tartu Prison did not satisfy the application. Following that, the Tartu administrative court and Tartu circuit court did not satisfy the applicant’s complaints and the Supreme Court did not start handling his appeal in cassation,” it is said in the press release following the court ruling.

At the same time, the prisoner also submitted a complaint regarding the alleged violation of Article 8 of the Convention, which stipulates the right to respect for their private and family life, but this was also rejected by the European Court of Human Rights.

“The appeal submitted on the basis of Article 8 was deemed inadmissible by the ECHR as clearly unjustified as it had already previously deemed inadmissible the applicant’s appeal regarding the application of hand and ankle cuffs,” it is said in the press release following the court ruling.

The case of Jatsotson versus Estonia was handled by the European Court of Human Rights sitting as a seven-member chamber.

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention was adopted within the context of the Council of Europe, and all of its 47 member states are contracting parties to the Convention.

Applications by individuals against contracting states, alleging that the state violates their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, can be made by any person, bearing in mind that before bringing any proceedings before that court all domestic remedies must be exhausted. A state may also bring a complaint against another state.

The court was established in 1959 and is based in Strasbourg. The number of full-time judges sitting in the court is equal to the number of contracting states to the European Convention on Human Rights. The judges perform their duties in an individual capacity and are elected by majority vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Starting from January 1, 2011, Estonia is represented in the European Court of Human Rights by Julia Laffranque, former judge of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Estonian Supreme Court.

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