Velyo Velev v. Bulgaria (Application no. 16032/07)

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


34. While the Court is aware of the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to the effect that educational facilities should be made available to all prisoners (see paragraphs 21-24 above), it reiterates that Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 does not place an obligation on Contracting States to organise educational facilities for prisoners where such facilities are not already in place (see Natoli v. Italy, no. 26161/95, Commission decision of 18 May 1998, unreported, and Epistatu v. Romania, no. 29343/10, § 63, 24 September 2013). However, the present applicant’s complaint concerns the refusal to him of access to a pre-existing educational institution, namely the Stara Zagora Prison school. As noted above, the right of access to pre-existing educational institutions falls within the scope of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1. Any limitation on this right has, therefore, to be foreseeable, to pursue a legitimate aim and to be proportionate to that aim (see paragraph 32 above). Although Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 does not impose a positive obligation to provide education in prison in all circumstances, where such a possibility is available it should not be subject to arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions.

35. The Court finds it open to doubt whether the restriction on the applicant was sufficiently foreseeable for the purposes of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1. The relevant legislative framework provided that convicted prisoners aged 16 or older had a right, on request, to be included in educational programmes and that, in the absence of clear rules to the contrary, the provisions regarding convicted prisoners were to apply equally to remand prisoners. The only express provision relating to the rights of remand prisoners to education was to the effect that the prison authorities should “encourage” the participation of remand prisoners in prison educational programmes (see paragraphs 15-19 above).

42. In the instant case the Government provided neither practical reasons, for example based on lack of resources at the school, nor a clear explanation as to the legal grounds for the restriction placed on the applicant. In these circumstances, on the evidence before it, the Court does not find that the refusal to enrol the applicant in the Stara Zagora Prison school was sufficiently foreseeable, nor that it pursued a legitimate aim and was proportionate to that aim. It follows that there has been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 in this case.


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