Iorgov v. Bulgaria (Application no. 40653/98)

Key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.

82. His complaint, however, is that between June 1995 and the end of 1998 he was alone in a cell [6 or 8 sq. m.] and was subjected to a regime of detention which was very restrictive and involved very little human contact. During that period he spent almost twenty-three hours per day alone in his cell. He was not allowed to join other categories of prisoners for meals in the refectory or for other activities. Food was served in the cell. The applicant had the right to no more than two visits per month. For the applicant, human contacts were practically limited to conversations with fellow prisoners during the one-hour daily walk and occasional dealings with prison staff (see paragraphs 40‑43 above).

83. The Court notes that the prohibition of contacts with other prisoners for security, disciplinary or protective reasons does not in itself amount to inhuman treatment or punishment (see, among others,Messina v. Italy(dec.), no. 25498/94, ECHR 1999‑V). As stated by the CPT, however, all forms of solitary confinement without appropriate mental and physical stimulation are likely, in the long term, to have damaging effects, resulting in deterioration of mental faculties and social abilities (see paragraph 49 above).

84. The Court notes that although the damaging effects of the impoverished regime to which the applicant was subjected were known, that regime was maintained for many years. The relevant law and regulations on the detention regime of persons sentenced to death were not amended. The adjustments introduced through internal unpublished instructions apparently did not clarify all aspects of the detention regime and did not establish clear and foreseeable rules (see paragraphs 29‑32 above). Furthermore, it is significant that the Government have not invoked any particular security reasons requiring the applicant’s isolation and have not mentioned why it was not possible to revise the regime of prisoners in the applicant’s situation so as to provide them with adequate possibilities for human contact and sensible occupation.

85. As regards the quality of the health care provided to the applicant, the Court notes that his health was regularly monitored and in most cases the necessary treatment was provided. However, the evidence about the treatment of the applicant’s swollen salivary gland, although not conclusive, suggests that there had been an unwarranted delay in providing adequate medical assistance. It must be stressed in this respect that the applicant’s alleged rude behaviour towards medical staff and, indeed, any violation of prison rules and discipline by a detainee, can in no circumstances warrant a refusal to provide medical assistance (see paragraphs 44‑46 and 50 above).

86. In sum, the Court considers that the stringent custodial regime to which the applicant was subjected after 1995 and the material conditions in which he was detained must have caused him suffering exceeding the unavoidable level inherent in detention. The Court thus concludes that the minimum threshold of severity under Article 3 of the Convention has been reached and that the applicant has been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

87. There has, accordingly, been a breach of that provision.


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