Article 3 of the ECHR establishes the absolute right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The permissible conditions of detention in the event of deprivation of liberty are also examined in Article 3. It is generally held that for conditions of detention to be compatible with the requirements of Article 3 ECHR, the State must ensure that (a) persons are detained in conditions compatible with respect for human dignity, (b) the manner and method in which the detention is carried out does not subject persons to an ordeal that exceeds the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in the detention; and (c) that the health and well-being of such persons are adequately safeguarded by the provision of necessary medical care (see more on the content of Article 3 here).
Greece has been found to be in contravention of Article 3 by the same court a number of times in the past due to issues such as overcrowding, inadequate health care, hygiene and living conditions and inadequate facilities in general in its detention facilities, on the basis that living under these conditions constitutes degrading treatment. The European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has underlined that the detention facilities in the police stations in the centre of Athens are totally unsuitable for the detention of persons for periods exceeding twenty-four hours. However, there are individuals who have been detained in these police stations for months. (see the Annual Special Report 2020-2021 and the CPT Report to the Greek Government following a visit in 2013).
Article 13 establishes the right of anyone whose rights under the ECHR have been violated to have access to an effective remedy before national authorities, and imposes an obligation on the State to provide appropriate remedies for this purpose.
The detention of persons to be deported is in principle allowed and is not considered arbitrary as long as deportation proceedings are pending. However, it is the settled position of the ECtHR that the detention should be directly linked to the purpose of deportation. States must also establish remedies for reviewing the lawfulness of detention, including in the case of detainees waiting to be deported, in which the suitability of the conditions of detention should also be assessed (see more here).
In 2015, the ECtHR issued 4 judgments in which it found Greece to be in violation of Articles 3, 13 and/or 5 of the ECHR, due to the conditions in detention centres, the detention of persons for long periods of time in police stations unsuitable for long-term detention and the shortcomings in judicial reviews of detention conditions.
The Court, after recalling that the content of the concept of the ‘lawfulness of detention’ is the includes both the lawfulness of the deprivation of liberty and the conditions of detention, noted that in this case the reasoning of the national authorities’ decision on the lawfulness of detention was limited to an examination of the the lawfulness of the detention itself without carrying out a substantive examination of the conditions of detention. As such the Court found a breach of Article 5(4) of the ECHR as applicants did not benefit from an examination of the lawfulness of their detention in the circumstances in which it was carried out in accordance with the requirements of the provision. (see more in para. 66, 67 of the judgement and in previous judgements concerning judicial review of the lawfulness of detention in Greece).
Finally, it should be noted that in this case the Court rejected as inadmissible the applicants’ plea of infringement of Article 5 para. 1 of the ECHR (see more in paragraphs 50-60 of the judgement).
2. The July 2015 decision in Chazaryan and Others v Greece (case no. 76951/12)
The eight applicants were detained in police stations, with all except the third having been detained at the Drapetsona Police Station. They alleged a violation of Article 3 of the Convention due to the conditions of their detention in various police stations (and/or detention centres) and in particular in the Drapetsona police station.
The Court noted that (a) it has repeatedly dealt with cases relating to the conditions of detention in police stations and has repeatedly found violations of Article 3 ECHR and that (b) these findings were based on, in addition to other specific deficiencies (such as overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, lack of outdoor spaces for walking, poor food quality) the very nature of police stations, which are unsuitable for detaining persons beyond a short period of time. Therefore the Court, finding no reason to depart from its previous case-law in similar cases, concluded that there had been a violation of Article 3 in this case.
3. The July 2015 decision (see 1, 2) in the case of E.A. v. Greece (application no. 74308/10).
This case concerns an appeal by E.A., an Iranian national. The applicant, three days after his arrival in Greece, was placed in temporary custody pending a decision on his deportation. The applicant was then transferred three times to different police border police premises.
The applicant had objected to his detention to the national authorities, requesting that the lawfulness of his detention be examined in relation to his asylum application, and claiming unacceptable conditions of detention. The President of the Alexandroupolis Administrative Court of First Instance held that the detention was lawful and rejected the objections, stating, that ‘the detention was imposed for reasons of public interest, in particular the fight against illegal immigration’, without analysing the applicant’s detention conditions. The applicant’s further appeals to his detention before the President of the Administrative Court of First Instance were upheld.
In his appeal, Mr E.A. invoked a material breach of Art. 3 of the ECHR on account of the conditions of his detention in two of the border posts in which he was held.
The Court, recalling that it has repeatedly found violations of Article 3 of the ECHR in cases against Greece concerning the conditions of detention of foreigners in the Soufli and Venna border posts, and taking into account the findings contained in the reports of various national and international organisations that visited the centres in question (cf. paragraph 36 et seq.) held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the ECHR as the applicant “was detained in deplorable conditions of overcrowding and hygiene, incompatible with Article 3 of the Convention and which amounted to degrading treatment of the applicant”.
In addition, E.A. complained of a violation of Article 13 of the ECHR, due to the absence of an effective remedy to complain about the conditions of his detention in Greece and of violations of Article 5 para. 1 and para. 4.
The ECtHR, referring to its settled case-law on the requirement of Article 13 that there be an effective remedy available, and holding that the remedy under Article 76 para. 3 of Law No. 3386/2005 did not in this case ensure the applicant adequate redress for the treatment he suffered as a result of the conditions of his detention, it found that there had been a violation of Article 13, read in conjunction with Article 3 of the ECHR. It found that there had been a violation of Article 5 para. 4 as the relevant national provisions did not allow the national judge to examine the conditions of his detention (see paragraphs 91-98 for more information).
Finally, it is noted that the ECtHR held that: a) there was a violation of Article 3 in conjunction with Article 13 due to the shortcomings in the asylum procedure and the risk of his being returned to Turkey and Iran (see more in paragraphs 66-79); b) there was no violation of Article 5 para. 1 (see more in paragraphs 80-90); and (c) there is no need to consider whether there has been a violation of Article 5(2) in the present case because of the finding of a violation of Article 5(4).
4. The November 2015 decision in the case of A.Y. v. Greece (Case No. 58399/11).
A.Y., of Iraqi nationality, was detained at the Border Station of Tychero in view of his deportation.
He complained about the conditions of his detention, invoking Article 3 of the ECHR, stating that he suffered from asthma and that the conditions in which he was detained, without access to an outside space, had worsened his state of health (see paragraphs 22-24 below).
The Court, after noting that the detention conditions that prevailed in the premises of the Tychero border guard station where the applicant was placed for about 3 months have been documented in many reports as seriously lacking in space, held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the ECHR, considering that the conditions of detention at issue subjected him to an ordeal which exceeded the inevitable level of suffering inherent in detention.
Furthermore, the ECtHR held that there was a violation of Article 3 in conjunction with Article 13 ECHR due to the deficiencies in the asylum procedure which exposed the applicant to the risk of deportation throughout his detention.
It is noted that the ECtHR did not find a violation of Article 13 read in conjunction with Article 5 paragraphs 1, 4 or 5. 4. More specifically, as regards the applicant’s claims that his detention was unlawful on the ground that the judicial review of the detention was not effective, the ECtHR noted that the national court implicitly examined the conditions of the detention of the A.Y., finding that the applicant’s health had deteriorated as a result of his detention at the Tychero Border Guard Station and ordering his release.
Finally, the ECtHR did not find a violation of Article 5 paragraphs 1, 2, or 4.
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