Case of Schmidt and Šmigol v. Estonia (Applications nos. 3501/20 and 2 others)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.

CASE OF SCHMIDT AND ŠMIGOL v. ESTONIA

162. Lastly, the Court cannot but underscore once more that the solitary confinement which the applicants were subjected to was imposed (in all instances but one) as a disciplinary measure, leading to their seclusion for long cumulative periods. In that regard, it is significant that the maximum period of forty-five days for which punishment-cell regime can be imposed under domestic law – which is already of considerable length – seems to have had no bearing on the manner the punishments were consecutively enforced, as the applicants were kept in solitary confinement for uninterrupted periods much longer than the limit set by law. Having doubts whether in the above circumstances the solitary confinement as a form disciplinary punishment was indeed imposed as a measure of last resort, the Court in any event considers that the Government have not presented compelling reasons as to the existence of exceptional circumstances capable of justifying the use of such long periods of solitary confinement as a purely disciplinary measure.

163. Given the above-noted background, the Court finds that the first applicant’s solitary confinement (be it under the punishment-cell regime or under the locked isolation-cell regime) in respect of all the periods between 27 June 2015 and 6 December 2017 – taking into account their cumulative effect – subjected him to hardship going beyond the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention. The second applicant’s solitary confinement during the period between 1 June 2016 and 26 September 2017 subjected also him to distress going beyond the inevitable element of suffering and humiliation inherent in detention.

171. In the light of the above reasoning the Court concludes that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of all the periods between 27 June 2015 and 6 December 2017 that the first applicant spent under either the punishment-cell regime or under the locked isolation-cell regime. There has also been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the period between 1 June 2016 and 26 September 2017, which the second applicant spent under the punishment-cell regime.

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