Andrey Frolov v Russia  ECHR 205/02 (29 March 2007)
In a series of recent cases, the European Court of Human Rights has found conditions of detention in prisons to be incompatible with the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment enshrined in art 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. A number of principles can be ascertained from the cases of Andrey Frolov v Russia (Application No 205/02, 29 March 2007), Istratii and others v Moldova (Application No 8721/05, 27 March 2007) and Todor Todorov v Bulgaria (Application No 50765/99, 5 April 2007), including that: • Ill-treatment must attain a minimum level of severity if it is to fall within the scope of art 3. The assessment of this minimum level is relative; it depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the duration of the treatment, its physical and mental effects and, in some cases, the sex, age and state of health of the victim. • Both individually and collectively, the following conditions, among others, may violate art 3: overcrowding, insufficient opportunity for outdoor exercise, inadequate lighting, inadequate ventilation, insufficient or poor quality food, limited access to natural light and insufficient sanitary conditions. • Although the purpose of such treatment is a factor to be taken into account, in particular whether it was intended to humiliate or debase the victim, the absence of any such purpose does not inevitably lead to a finding that there has been no violation of art 3. It is not necessary for a detainee alleging a violation to establish that the responsible authorities had any intention to cause humiliation, debasement or distress; it is sufficient that the detainee is forced to live in conditions which cause distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding that which is a necessary incident of deprivation of liberty. • Irrespective of the reasons for oppressive or unsanitary conditions of detention, it is incumbent on the state to organise its penitentiary system in such a way as to ensure respect for the dignity of detainees, regardless of financial or logistical difficulties. • The state has a positive obligation to protect the physical well-being of persons deprived of their liberty, for example by providing them with the requisite medical assistance. Failure to provide adequate and necessary medical assistance may amount to a violation of art 3. • All prisoners have a right to conditions of detention which are compatible with human dignity, which do not subject them to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention, and which adequately secure their health and wellbeing.
Detailed case note on the cases of Andrey Frolov v Russia (Application No 205/02, 29 March 2007), Istratii and others v Moldova (Application No 8721/05, 27 March 2007) and Todor Todorov v Bulgaria (Application No 50765/99, 5 April 2007).