The European Court of Human Rights has on 18 March 2013 delivered judgment (summary in English) in Abdullah Öcalan v Turkey (no 2, 24069/03, 197/04, 6201/06 and 10464/07). This is already the second time that the Court dealt with the complaint by Mr Öcalan, the founder of Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The same Court examined his first complaint already in 2005 when it found that Turkey violated several articles (Articles 5 (3 and 4) and Article 3 of ECHR) during and following his arrest at the Nairobi airport and his subsequent transfer to Turkey (no. 46221/99, 12.5.2005). This time around Mr Öcalan complained of his inhumane detention conditions on the island of İmralı, where he was held alone for nearly 11 years, until 17 November 2009. The Court agreed and found violation in respect of the inhumane conditions of his detention (Article 3). More specifically, the Court held that :
les conditions de détention imposées au requérant pendant cette période ont atteint le seuil minimum de gravité requis pour constituer un traitement inhumain au sens de l’article 3 de la Convention. (para. 146)
The Court also held that the sentence of life imprisonment amounts to the violation of inhuman treatment under Article 3 of ECHR as his prison sentence was found to be »irreducible« (para. 207). Turkey is now obliged to offer Mr Öcalan procedural possibility to challenge his sentence of life imprisonment as unjustified. All in all, this case represent a symbolic victory for Mr Öcalan but it remains to bee seen how quickly and if at all Turkey will execute the judgment.
The European Court of Human Rights has at the end of February delivered two judgments against Slovenia, Štrukelj v Slovenia (6011/10) and Četić v Slovenia (7054/10), both, in the already long series of judgments on the deteriorating conditions in Slovenian prisons. In Štrukelj the applicant :
…. was detained in cells 7 and 5 he had 3 or 3.26 square metres of personal space, respectively. His situation was further exacerbated by the very limited time which could be spent outside the cell. Also when held in cells 98 and 124 with 3.75 square metres of personal space, the conditions of the applicant’s detention were further exacerbated by the very limited time which he could spent outside the cell and partly also by high temperatures in the cells in the summer of 2009 (para. 23).
The Court therefore held that :
the hardship he endured appears to have exceeded the unavoidable level inherent in detention, and finds that the resulting suffering went beyond the threshold of severity under Article 3 of the Convention (para. 24).
Similarly, in Četić the Court held that :
to the cumulative effects of the conditions of the applicant’s detention in cells 2 and 129, the Court considers, as in Praznik, that the hardship he endured appears to have exceeded the unavoidable level inherent in detention, and finds that the resulting suffering went beyond the threshold of severity under Article 3 of the Convention.
Both judgments are the latest developments regarding prisoners conditions, particularly overcrowding in Slovenian prisoners. The Court found in both cases that conditions in Slovenian prisons violated the standards of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Slovenian government, however, has recently pledged to improve prison conditions, including by constructing a new prison. However, until this materializes, we can expect from the Court further similar judgments against Slovenia.