X v. Finland
European Court of Human Rights
3 July 2012
The applicant was arrested in connection with criminal proceedings that had been brought against her. The court ordered the applicant’s transfer to a mental health care institution, where a doctor concluded that she suffered from a delusional disorder and met the criteria for involuntary confinement. The Board for Forensic Psychiatry of the National Authority for Medico-Legal Affairs ordered the applicant’s involuntary treatment. She was released from the hospital only a year later. The applicant unsuccessfully challenged her confinement and involuntary treatment before the domestic authorities.
The applicant complained that her right to liberty had been breached in that she had been unlawfully confined to a mental hospital, though she had not been in need of involuntary care.
The Court, firstly, pointed out that for the involuntary placement not to be unlawful, it has to be applied according to national law. Namely, the grounds for such placement and the proper procedure must be prescribed by law. Moreover, the national law must conform with the requirements of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Secondly, the Court noted that the involuntary placement must not be arbitrary. Although there is no general definition what arbitrary means, there are certain developed principles that help to assess arbitrariness. They are as follows:
- Despite complying with the letter of national law, there must not be an element of bad faith or deception on the part of the authorities.
- Both the order to detain and the execution of the detention must genuinely conform to the purpose of the restrictions permitted by those established by the Convention.
- There must in addition be some relationship between the ground relied on for the permitted deprivation of liberty and the place and conditions of detention.
- It must reliably be shown that the person is of unsound mind, namely, a true mental disorder must be established before a competent authority on the basis of objective medical evidence.
- The mental disorder must be of a kind or degree warranting compulsory confinement.
- The validity of continued confinement must depend upon the persistence of such a disorder.