European Court of Human Rights
3 July 2012

Facts

The applicant, Ms. Aleksejeva, was serving a prison sentence. Her mother had worked in the same prison until the day the applicant was transferred to that prison. With Ms. Aleksejeva’s consent she was placed in a double cell with another prisoner - a former bailiff. She encountered other prisoner during out-of-cell activities.

Complaint

Ms. Aleksejeva complained of a lack of separation from the other prisoners because she belonged to a category of vulnerable prisoners. She argued as a result she lived in constant fear in violation of her rights under Article 3 of the Convention.

Court’s ruling

The Court reiterated that the state has an obligation to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention, taken together with Article 3, requires States to take measures designed to ensure that individuals within their jurisdiction are not subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including such ill-treatment administered by private individuals. These measures should provide effective protection, in particular, of vulnerable persons. The state authorities must take all steps reasonably expected to prevent real and immediate risks to the respective prisoners’ physical integrity, of which the authorities had or ought to have had knowledge. However, the obligation to protect vulnerable prisoners should not be interpreted in such a way as to impose an impossible or excessive burden on the authorities. In the case at hand the Court noted that the prison administration was aware that Ms. Aleksejeva belonged to a category of prisoners at risk of inter-prisoner violence. In the Court’s opinion the prison authorities took all measures that could reasonably have been expected of them to ensure her safety – they put her in cell only with persons in similar situation. The applicant has also not reported any incidents to the prison administration. In addition, the applicant had also specifically agreed to be moved to another cell she shared with other convicts. Thus the Court concluded that in the absence of specific threats the state had taken all the necessary and reasonable measures to ensure the applicant’s safety and rejected the application as manifestly ill-founded.

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