Testa v. Croatia

European Court of Human Rights
12 July 2007


The applicant, Ms. Testa, was suffering from chronic hepatitis (Hepatitis C). During her imprisonment she had not been seen by a hepatologist (a specialist for her disease) for prolonged periods of times.


Ms. Testa complained of the poor quality of medical treatment she received during her imprisonment violated her rights under Article 3 of the Convention.

Court's ruling

The Court stated that in exceptional cases, where the state of a detainee's health is absolutely incompatible with the detention, Article 3 may require the release of such person under certain conditions. There are three elements to be considered in relation to the compatibility of the applicant's health with her stay in detention:

  • the medical condition of the prisoner
  • the adequacy of the medical assistance and care provided in detention and
  • the advisability of maintaining the detention measure in view of the state of health of the applicant

However, Article 3 does not lay down a general obligation to release detainees on health grounds imposes, but creates an obligation to protect the physical well-being of persons deprived of their liberty. The medical assistance available in prison hospitals may not always be at the same level as in the best medical institutions for the general public. Nevertheless, the State must ensure that the health and well-being of detainees are adequately secured by, among other things, providing them with the requisite medical assistance. In the particular case the Court noted that Ms. Testa had not been provided with appropriate diagnostic treatment and had been left without relevant information in respect of her illness, thus keeping her in dark about her health condition and depriving her of any control over it, which must have caused her perpetual anguish and fear. 

The Court concluded that as a consequence of the lack of adequate medical examinations, due to which the exact effect of chronic hepatitis on the Ms. Testa's health had not been established, she had not been provided with proper medical assistance. This in combination with other unacceptable conditions in the detention place amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

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Last updated 17/11/2023