Yankov v. Bulgaria (Application no. 39084/97)

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


112. A particular characteristic of the treatment complained of, the forced shaving off of a prisoner’s hair, is that it consists in a forced change of the person’s appearance by the removal of his hair. The person undergoing that treatment is very likely to experience a feeling of inferiority as his physical appearance is changed against his will.

113. Furthermore, for at least a certain period of time a prisoner whose hair has been shaved off carries a mark of the treatment he has undergone. The mark is immediately visible to others, including prison staff, co-detainees and visitors or the public, if the prisoner is released or brought into a public place soon thereafter. The person concerned is very likely to feel hurt in his dignity by the fact that he carries a visible physical mark.

114. The Court thus considers that the forced shaving off of detainees’ hair is in principle an act which may have the effect of diminishing their human dignity or may arouse in them feelings of inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing them. […]

118. Furthermore, in the particular case the applicant must have had reasons to believe that the aim had been to humiliate him, given the fact that his hair was shaved off by the prison administration in the context of a punishment imposed on him for writing critical and offensive remarks about prison warders, among others (see paragraphs 65-76 above).

119. Additional factors to be taken into consideration in the present case are the applicant’s age – 55 at the relevant time – and the fact that he appeared at a public hearing nine days after his hair had been shaved off (see paragraphs 9 and 74 above).

120. Having regard to the foregoing, the Court considers that in the particular circumstances of the present case the shaving off of the applicant’s hair in the context of his punishment by confinement in an isolation cell for writing critical and offensive remarks about prison warders and State organs constituted an unjustified treatment of sufficient severity to be characterised as degrading within the meaning of Article 3 of the Convention.


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