Постановление Европейского суда по правам человека от 22.12.2009 «Дело Скоробогатых (skorobogatykh) против России» [англ.]

Город принятия

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FIRST SECTION
CASE OF SKOROBOGATYKH v. RUSSIA
(Application No. 4871/03)
JUDGMENT*
(Strasbourg, 22.XII.2009)
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*This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Skorobogatykh v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Nina {Vajic}*, President,

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*Здесь и далее по тексту слова на национальном языке набраны латинским шрифтом и выделены фигурными скобками.

Anatoly Kovler,

Elisabeth Steiner,

Khanlar Hajiyev,

Sverre Erik Jebens,

Giorgio Malinverni,

George Nicolaou, judges,

and {Soren} Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 3 December 2009,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE
1. The case originated in an application (No. 4871/03) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by a Russian national, Mr Sergey Dmitriyevich Skorobogatykh ("the applicant"), on 15 November 2003.

2. The applicant, who had been granted legal aid, was represented by Ms O. Preobrazhenskaya and Ms K. Moskalenko, lawyers practising in Moscow. The Russian Government ("the Government") were represented by Mr P. Laptev and Ms V. Milinchuk, former Representatives of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that he had been detained in inhuman and degrading conditions and that the courts at two levels of jurisdiction had refused to secure his participation in the civil proceedings concerning his claims for compensation for damage resulting from detention in such conditions.

4. On 19 January 2007 the President of the First Section decided to give notice of the application to the Government. It was also decided to examine the merits of the application at the same time as its admissibility (Article 29 § 3).

5. The Government objected to the joint examination of the admissibility and merits of the application. Having examined the Government's objection, the Court dismissed it.

THE FACTS
I. The circumstances of the case
6. The applicant was born in 1966 and is serving a prison sentence in Kaliningrad Region.

A. Conditions of detention
7. On 16 March 1998 the applicant was arrested on suspicion of possession of illegal drugs. From 16 March to 30 December 1998 he was detained in remand prison No. IZ-39/1 in Kaliningrad pending investigation and trial.

1. Number of inmates per cell
8. Pursuant to the certificate issued by the remand prison administration on 16 March 2007 and produced by the Government, the applicant was detained in four cells. From 16 March to 24 April 1998 he was held in cell No. 29, which measured 7.7 square metres. From 24 April to 15 June 1998 he was placed in cell No. 145, which measured 7.9 square metres. From 15 June to 26 August 1998 he was kept in cell No. 8, which measured 7.8 square metres. Lastly, from 26 August to 29 December 1998 he was held in cell No. 4/19, which measured 14 square metres. According to the Government, the information on the numbers of inmates detained in the same cells as the applicant was not available as the documents had been destroyed. The Government, relying on the same certificate, further submitted that at all times the applicant had had an individual bed and bedding.

9. The applicant did not dispute the cell measurements and the period of detention there. He submitted that the cells in the remand prison were always overcrowded. The number of bunk beds in the cells was insufficient and the inmates had to take turns to sleep. There were six beds in cell No. 29, while there were twelve inmates held there. In cell No. 145 there were ten or eleven inmates who had to share four beds. No bedding was provided for him and all the time he had been detained in cell No. 29 he had had to sleep just on the metal mesh of the bunk bed. Then his relatives sent him a mattress, a blanket, a pillow, sheets and a pillow case.

2. Sanitary and hygienic conditions
10. Relying on the certificates issued by the management of the remand prison on 16 and 27 March 2007, the Government provided the following description of the cells where the applicant had been detained. The windows had glass panes and were provided with air vents which could be kept open. Each cell was equipped with mechanical and exhaust ventilation. When the inmates went out for exercise the door vents in the cells were kept open too, to allow for additional air circulation. The central heating ensured an adequate temperature of 18 °C. The lights in the cells were constantly on, which permitted permanent supervision of the inmates detained in the cells and the prevention of altercations between them, and against other contingencies too. Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. the cells were lit with two 100-watt bulbs, ensuring sufficient brightness in the cells. During the night the lighting used was of a lower intensity. Cleaning and disinfection were carried out on a regular basis, at least once a month. Rodent and insect extermination was carried out on a weekly basis. Should lice, bed bugs, cockroaches, etc. be detected in the cells, additional prompt disinfection was conducted too. The cells were equipped with a centralised cold and hot water supply and a sewage system. The remand prison did not limit or restrict water use by the detainees in any way. The toilet was separated from the living area of the cell by a wall one metre in height and functioned properly.

11. The applicant rejected the description of the conditions of his detention as submitted by the Government. As regards the certificates provided by the Government, he considered them to be an unreliable source of information given that they had been prepared almost nine years after he was detained at the remand prison in question. According to the applicant, the windows in the cells were covered with metal shutters which prevented the access of fresh air. The shutters were removed only in 2003 pending the visit of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. The cells were infested with cockroaches, bed bugs, lice and other insects. They were never sanitised. The inmates had at their disposal only disinfectants received from their relatives. The food was of poor quality. It was distributed by inmates dressed in dirty clothes. It could be seen that their hands and fingernails were dirty too. The laundry service was always closed and the inmates had to wash and dry their bed sheets in the cells. The toilet was separated from the living area of the cell only in cell No. 4/19. In other cells the inmates had to hang up a curtain made of an old bed sheet to partition off the toilet area. In cells Nos. 29 and 145 the toilets were broken and leaked constantly. In cell No. 8 the toilet installed had been manufactured in Germany before the Second World War. The furniture in the cells was scarce and broken. There was practically no hot water supply. The light was very bright and was never switched off. Because of the lack of any ventilation in the cells it was stiflingly hot in summer. The applicant further alleged that as a result of detention in such conditions he had developed skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. He also suffered from a psychological disorder and depression.

3. Availability of showers and daily walks
12. According to the applicant, his daily walk lasted no longer than an hour. It took place in a small yard measuring seven square metres. Due to the high number of inmates taken into the yard it was practically impossible to move around. There were no benches in the yard either. Everyone just had to stand still.

13. The applicant further submitted that between 16 March and 24 April 1998 the administration had introduced a quarantine regime in the cell after one of the inmates had fallen ill with hepatitis. During that period the inmates were not allowed to use the shower facilities. After the quarantine was over, the applicant could take a shower only on very rare occasions, that is no more often than once in twelve, fifteen or twenty days. At all times the shower rooms were overcrowded and the water was either too cold or too hot to allow adequate washing.

14. The Government denied that an inmate suffering from hepatitis had been detained in any of the same cells as the applicant. Nor had there been any restrictions on the use of the shower facilities.

B. Proceedings for compensation
15. On 23 January 2003 the applicant, who was at that time serving a prison sentence, sued the Ministry of Finance of Russia and remand prison No. IZ-39/1 for compensation for damage resulting from his pre-trial detention in appalling conditions and lack of medical assistance. The applicant claimed an award for non-pecuniary damage in the amount of 99,000 Russian roubles (RUB). He also sought leave to appear before the court and asked for a lawyer to be appointed to represent him.

16. On an unspecified date the Tsentralniy District Court of the Kaliningrad Region informed the applicant that the applicable laws did not provide for the attendance of persons serving a prison sentence at a hearing concerning the determination of their civil rights and obligations. The court further advised the applicant of his right to submit observations in writing and/or to appoint a representative and communicated to him the date and time of the court hearing.

17. On 22 April 2003 the District Court heard the case in the applicant's absence. The respondent parties were present. They made oral submissions to the court and presented written evidence. The court dismissed the applicant's claims in full. Firstly, the court accepted that the applicant had been detained in overcrowded cells pending investigation and trial. After reviewing the applicant's medical file the court found that the applicant had received necessary medical assistance. The court examined the documents provided by the respondents to substantiate their argument that conditions of the applicant's detention had been in conformity with applicable standards, and dismissed the remainder of the applicant's allegations as unsubstantiated. Lastly, the court noted that Articles 1069 and 1070 of the Russian Civil Code were not applicable to his case, given that he had been detained lawfully.

18. On 24 September 2003 the Kaliningrad Regional Court considered the applicant's appeal against the judgment of 22 April 2003 in his absence. In sum, the appeal court noted that the overcrowding of the remand prison had been due to objective reasons and could not give rise to the respondent parties' civil liability, even though the latter conceded that the remand prison had been overcrowded. The court upheld the said judgment noting that (1) it had not been incumbent on the lower court to provide the applicant with free legal assistance and (2) the applicant had been duly notified of the date and time of the court hearing and had had ample opportunity to retain a representative to plead the case on his behalf.

II. Relevant domestic law and practice
A. Conditions of detention
19. Detainees should be provided with food free of charge and sufficient to maintain them in good health according to standards established by the Government of the Russian Federation (Section 22 of the Detention of Suspects Act in force as of 15 July 1995 ("the Act")). The conditions of their detention should satisfy sanitary and hygienic requirements. They should be provided with an individual sleeping place, bedding, tableware and toiletries. Each inmate should have no less than four square metres of personal space in his or her cell (Section 23 of the Act).

B. Compensation for damages
20. The damage caused to the person or his or her property shall be compensated in full by the tortfeasor (Article 1064 § 1 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation ("the CC")). A State agency or a State official shall be liable for damage caused by their unlawful actions or failure to act (Article 1069 of the CC). Such damage is to be compensated at the expense of the federal or regional treasury.

C. Presence in court
21. Parties to civil proceedings may appear before a court in person or act through a representative (Article 48 of the Code of Civil Procedure in force as of 1 February 2003 ("the CCP")). A court may appoint an advocate to represent a defendant whose place of residence is not known (Article 50 of the CCP). Free legal assistance may be provided to indigent plaintiffs in civil disputes concerning alimony or pension payments or claims for health damage (section 26 § 1 of the Advocates Act in force as of 31 May 2002).

22. Convicted persons may be transferred from a correctional colony to an investigative unit if their participation is required as witnesses, victims or suspects in connection with certain investigative measures (Article 77.1 of the Code of Corrections in force as of 8 January 1997). The possibility for a convicted person to take part in civil proceedings, whether as a plaintiff or defendant is not provided for.

23. On several occasions the Constitutional Court has examined complaints by convicted persons whose requests for leave to appear in civil proceedings had been refused by courts. It has consistently declared the complaints inadmissible, finding that the contested provisions of the CCP and the Code of Corrections did not, as such, restrict the convicted person's access to court. It has emphasised, nonetheless, that the convicted person should be able to make submissions to the civil court, either through a representative or in any other way provided by law. If necessary, the court may hold the hearing at the location where the convicted person is serving the sentence or may ask the court having territorial jurisdiction over the correctional colony to obtain the applicant's submissions or carry out any other procedural actions (decisions No. 478-O of 16 October 2003, No. 335-O of 14 October 2004, and No. 94-O of 21 February 2008).

THE LAW
I. Alleged violation of Article 3 of the Convention
24. The applicant complained that he had been detained in appalling conditions from 16 March to 30 December 1998 in remand prison No. IZ-39/1 in Kaliningrad in contravention of Article 3 of the Convention, which reads as follows:

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
A. Admissibility
1. The parties' submissions
25. The applicant