Guest post by Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou (University of Surrey) and Filippo Fontanelli (University of Edinburgh)
On 30 June 2015, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in the case Khoroshenko v. Russia. With this decision, the Court set the boundaries of State regulation in the area of penitentiary policy, namely with respect to the right to family life of lifelong prisoners. The Court has often declared that Contracting Parties enjoy a broad margin of appreciation in this area, yet the margin has limits: the Court has recently taken upon it the task to map them. The judgment of Khoroshenko v. Russia, indeed, fits within a recent strand of the case law through which the Court has scrutinised the condition of incarceration of prisoners for life.
The applicant is serving a life sentence in Russia. Generally, all prisoners in Russia can receive short- and long-term family visits. For prisoners serving life terms, instead, the law prohibits long-term visits for the first decade of imprisonment (the ‘blanket ban’). Long-term visits last up to three days and can be unsupervised; short-term visits last up to four hours, they always take place under the supervision of guards and in rooms set up to exclude all physical contact with visitors (including sexual intimacy). Mr Khoroshenko challenged before the ECtHR the blanket ban that he endured from 1999 to 2009, invoking Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR.