Kargakis v. Greece: Protection in Substance for Detainees with Disabilities but a Web of Missed Opportunities

By Andrea Broderick (Assistant Professor of International and European Law, Maastricht University, The Netherlands) and Delia Ferri (Professor of Law, Maynooth University, Ireland)

Delia Ferri and Andrea Broderick have collaborated on several recent publications, including the first textbook on International and European Disability Law and Policy: Texts, Cases and Materials (Cambridge University Press, 2019), and the first Research Handbook on EU Disability Law (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020).

On 14 January 2021, the ECtHR released its ruling in the case of Kargakis v. Greece (press release available in English). The case centres on the conditions of pre-trial detention of Mr. Kleanthis Kargakis in Diavata Prison, the lack of an effective remedy to complain about those conditions and the length of judicial review proceedings. Taking into account the fact that Mr. Kargakis is a person with disabilities and having regard to the duration of his imprisonment, the Strasbourg Court held that the conditions in which he was detained amounted to a violation of Article 3 ECHR, containing the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment. The Court also found that Greece breached Article 13 ECHR, which enshrines the right to an effective remedy, on account of the fact that the domestic court did not adequately examine the conditions of detention and health issues experienced by the applicant.

The ruling in Kargakis v. Greece is noteworthy due to the Court’s finding that the pre-trial detention conditions in Diavata Prison exceeded the threshold of suffering inherent to the deprivation of liberty because the prison facilities were not adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. While the Strasbourg Judges did not explicitly discuss Greece’s international law obligations to provide generalised accessibility measures and individualised reasonable accommodation, the ECtHR acknowledged the rights of detainees with disabilities to an accessible place of detention. In that sense, the decision fits neatly into a long line of previous cases, such as Price v. UK, Z.H. v. Hungary and Grimailovs v. Latvia, in which the Court has recognised the general duty of Contracting Parties to the ECHR to provide accessible prison settings, alongside the obligation to take all ‘reasonable steps’ to address the individual needs of detainees with a disability. Unfortunately, the Court did not refer to, or incorporate into its reasoning in Kargakis v. Greece, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In that regard, the decision constitutes a missed opportunity to foster convergence between the ECHR and the CRPD.

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Sabuncu and Others v. Turkey: the final chapter of the Cumhuriyet Trial?

Matteo Mastracci, Ph.D. Researcher at Koç University, and reporter for Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL)

In a long-awaited decision, the European Court of Human Rights finally ruled on 10 November 2020 on the case of Sabuncu and Others v. Turkey. The case, better known as the Cumhuriyet trial, named after the newspaper in which the applicants were working as journalists, concerned the detention of ten individuals on terrorism-related charges. The Court, in a much ado about nothing decision, found a violation of Article 5 §1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the Convention. However, upon closer inspection, both the legal argumentation and the concrete outcome of the judgment are only partially satisfactory.

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Preventive detention as a “penalty” in the case of Ilnseher v. Germany

By Emilie Rebsomen, Méryl Recotillet and Caroline Teuma (Aix-Marseille University) 

The internment of mentally ill offenders has a long history. The first safety measures were envisaged in the writings of the criminologists of the 18th and 19th century. Since then, various and varied security and safety measures have been introduced, security internment being one of them.

Faced with criminal policies increasingly oriented towards control, prevention or even precaution, security internment for an indefinite period as in the case of Ilnseher v. Germany threatens to spread even further. This is explained by an increasing social demand for justice and psychiatry. In the case Ilnseher v. Germany, a Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (reaffirmed its position, developed in the Bergmann case, concerning the retrospective preventive detention of convicted murderer placed in a centre for psychiatric treatment. On 29 May 2017, the Grand Chamber Panel accepted Mr Ilsneher’s request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber. The hearing will take place on 29 November 2017. In this framework, the European Prison Litigation Network was invited by the President of the Grand Chamber to intervene as a third party in this case. Thanks to our partnership with the European Prison Litigation Network, our law clinic Aix Global Justice, had the opportunity to participate in this intervention.[1]

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The subscription of Belgium to Strasbourg in detention cases: Rooman v. Belgium & Tekin and Arslan v. Belgium

By Rebecca Deruiter – PhD Researcher, Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP), Ghent University[1]

Two rulings convicted the Belgian state for violating Article 3 in the case of Rooman v. Belgium and Article 2 in the case of Tekin and Arslan v. Belgium. Both these cases concern mentally-ill offenders for which the Belgian state already has a deplorable reputation. These judgments reveal, once again, structural problems which are still present in the Belgian penitentiary system: the lack of (after)care for mentally-ill offenders and the inadequate training of prison staff. Continue reading

Zherdev v. Ukraine: Article 3 of the ECHR and Children’s Rights at the Stage of Police Interrogation

By Prof. Dr. Ton Liefaard, Professor of Children’s Rights / UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights, Leiden Law School, Leiden University, The Netherlands[1]

The Zherdev v. Ukraine judgement of 27 April 2017 by the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter: the Court) further augments the Court’s line of recognising the vulnerable position of children in police interrogation and custody. What is the impact of this recognition on the threshold to find a violation under Article 3 ECHR, and to what extent does the judgement reflect international legal standards relating to children in conflict with the law, and global concerns regarding police violence towards children?

This commentary begins with a brief overview of the relevant facts of the case. It then addresses the Court’s judgement, focusing on the allegations in relation to Article 3 and to a certain extent Article 6 ECHR. It explores the Court’s threshold to assess ill-treatment in the context of children in police custody, and highlights relevant international standards in that regard. This commentary concludes with a final note on the important role of lawyers in preventing and addressing ill-treatment, and the complex issue of children’s waiver of legal counsel. Continue reading