Poltoratskiy v. Ukraine (Application no. 38812/97)

A selection of key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.


145. The Court views with particular concern the fact that, until May 1998 at earliest, the applicant, in common with other prisoners detained in the prison under a death sentence, was locked up twenty-four hours a day in a cell which offered only a very restricted living space and in which the window was shuttered, with the consequence that there was no access to natural light, that there was no provision for any outdoor exercise and that there was little or no opportunity for activities to occupy himself or for human contact. In line with the observations of the CPT concerning the subjection of death-row prisoners in Ukraine to similar conditions, the Court considers that the detention of the applicant in unacceptable conditions of this kind amounted to degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the Convention. In the case of the applicant, the situation was aggravated by the fact that, between 24 February and 24 March 1998, he was detained in a cell where there was no water tap or washbasin but only a small pipe on the wall near the toilet, where the water supply could only be turned on from the corridor, where the walls were covered with faeces and where the bucket for flushing the toilet had been taken away. The applicant’ situation was further aggravated by the fact that throughout the period in question he was subject to a death sentence, although, as noted in paragraphs 11 and 135 above, a moratorium had been in effect since 11 March 1997.

146. The Court considers that in the present case there is no evidence that there was a positive intention of humiliating or debasing the applicant. However, although the question whether the purpose of the treatment was to humiliate or debase the victim is a factor to be taken into account, the absence of any such purpose cannot conclusively rule out a finding of a violation of Article 3 (see V. v. the United Kingdom[GC], no. 24888/94, § 71, ECHR 1999-IX, and Kalashnikov, cited above, § 101). It considers that the conditions of detention which the applicant had to endure in particular until May 1998 must have caused him considerable mental suffering, diminishing his human dignity.
The Court acknowledges that after May 1998 substantial and progressive improvements had taken place, both in the general conditions of the applicant’s detention and in the regime applied within the prison. In particular, the blinds shuttering the windows were removed, daily outdoor walks were introduced and the rights of prisoners to receive visits and to correspond were enhanced. Nevertheless, the Court observes that, by the date of introduction of these improvements, the applicant had already been detained in these deleterious conditions for a period of nearly thirty months, including a period of eight months after the Convention had come into force in respect of Ukraine.

147. The Court has also borne in mind, when considering the material conditions in which the applicant was detained and the activities offered to him, that Ukraine encountered serious socio-economic problems in the course of its systemic transition and that prior to the summer of 1998 the prison authorities were both struggling under difficult economic conditions and occupied with the implementation of new national legislation and related regulations. However, the Court observes that lack of resources cannot in principle justify prison conditions which are so poor as to reach the threshold of treatment contrary to Article 3 of the Convention. Moreover, the economic problems faced by Ukraine cannot in any event explain or excuse the particular conditions of detention which it has found in paragraph 145 to be unacceptable in the present case.


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