European Court of Human Rights
28 February 2012

Facts

The applicant, Mr Melnītis, was detained in the remand wing of a prison for almost 5 months. During that time he complained to the prosecutor’s office and the Prisons Administration about bad lighting in the cell, that the cell was overcrowded and smelled bad because of the inside toilet and that he lacked personal hygiene products. He was informed that the prison didn’t have the financial resources to provide him with the personal hygiene products.

Complaint

The applicant complained that the conditions of his detention in the prison had been inhumane and degrading, in breach of Article 3 of the Convention. 

Court's ruling

The Court found that the toilets in Mr Melnītis’ cell had not been partitioned off and that he had to use the toilet in front of his cellmates as well as he had to witness them using the toilet. Furthermore, he had been unable to keep up his personal hygiene during his detention and had therefore to have felt constantly dirty and humiliated for five months. This had clearly caused distress and hardship that went beyond the suffering inherent in detention. 

Even more unacceptable was the domestic authorities’ plainly dismissive attitude of the applicant’s legitimate request for hygiene products. The Court therefore held that the detention conditions in which Mr Melnītis had been held had to have made him feel anguish, inferiority and humiliation, which could have led to his physical and/or moral resistance being broken, in violation of Article 3.

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