Shlykov and others v. Russia (Applications nos. 178638/11, 26086/14, 311402/17, 482420/17)

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

77.  In the present case, each applicant was convicted of several serious crimes (see the table above and paragraphs 9, 12 and 18 above). Their criminal records arguably called for their placement in the highest security conditions. However, the question which must be addressed is whether the specific measures applied to the applicants in those conditions, in particular their handcuffing, were justified given the security concerns and their personal situation. 

81.  In the present case, the relevant domestic provisions, in particular the Penal Institutions Act and the Internal Rules of Penal Facilities, do not require that inmates sentenced to life imprisonment be handcuffed each time when they leave their cells. To the contrary, the legislation in question presupposes discretion in this respect, and the handcuffing of a life prisoner is called for if he represents a danger or could abscond (see paragraphs 3639 above). The degree of the above risks is to be assessed by prison staff and prison commissions, which can place the prisoners under surveillance after examining their files. The practice suggests that handcuffing is not applied automatically in all detention facilities housing inmates serving a life sentence (see paragraph 46 above). 

82.  Thus the Court finds that the de facto presumption of routine handcuffing of persons sentenced to life imprisonment does not seem to be based on the domestic legislation and is not uniformly followed in practice. Nevertheless, where such presumption is applied, it appears that the prisoners concerned will find it very difficult to obtain a change in their situations. 

83.  The Court finds particularly worrying the situation of Mr Shlykov (application no. 78638/11), where the Government did not refer to any decision of a prison commission or any other documents containing the grounds for his continued handcuffing. It appears that the very fact that he was a life prisoner was sufficient for him to be handcuffed. 

86.  The Court notes in this regard that although the domestic regulations provide that the use of restraint measures must be regularly reviewed, there is no evidence that this was systematically done during the applicants’ detention. The prison officers monitoring the applicants did not submit any reports to the prison commissions on the progress of the applicants’ behaviour nor did the prison commissions review their decisions to place the applicants under surveillance with sufficient regularity, as required by the regulations (see paragraphs 39-40 above). 

92.  To sum up, the Court finds that the applicants were handcuffed for prolonged periods of time, without a proper evaluation of their individual situation, in the absence of any regular assessment of whether the application of the measure in question was appropriate or pursued any specific aim. 

93.  On the strength of the above, the Court concludes that systematic handcuffing of the applicants in a secure environment was a measure which lacked sufficient justification and can thus be regarded as degrading treatment. There has therefore been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on that account. 


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