Russia fails to provide adequate medical care to diabetic detainee for 20 months

Published: 25 Jul 2017

Today the European Court of Human Rights held that Russian authorities failed to provide Vyacheslav Yankovskiy, an insulin-dependent type-one diabetic, with adequate medical care while he was held in pre-trial detention for almost 20 months. The European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University, and Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) represented Mr Yankovskiy.

Authorities detained Mr Yankovskiy in April 2010 on suspicion of murder and of having injured two people. Due to his condition, he required regular insulin shots. He also suffered from diabetic encephalopathy, pancreatitis, prostatitis and other illnesses, and had been certified as disabled in 2008. In July 2010, a medical panel issued a report stating that Mr Yankovskiy should receive specific medical care if he was to remain in detention. He underwent a further examination on 26 October 2010, where it was found that he was suffering from severe diabetes. Despite this, three days later the authorities transferred him to a detention facility not authorised to provide the care he needed.

Mr Yankovskiy’s condition deteriorated sharply, yet he was not seen regularly by an endocrinologist (specialist for patients with diabetes) and he had received treatment in medical facilities unequipped to treat his condition.

By the time he lodged his application at the European Court, Mr Yankovskiy had been in detention for one year. He argued that Russian authorities had failed to provide him with adequate medical treatment, in breach of Russia’s positive obligation to prohibit inhuman and degrading treatment (under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)). In its judgment, the European Court ruled that:

Given the seriousness of the applicant’s condition, the continuous deterioration of his health, and the risks involved […] the absence of appropriate monitoring and supervision in respect of his medical treatment was a serious failure on the part of the authorities.”

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It also held that the detention orders authorising Mr Yankovskiy’s pre-trial detention and its subsequent extensions were based on alleged risks that were not established by the courts, in violation of Article 5§3 ECHR. It added that those orders

“were silent as to why the alleged risks could not have been offset by any other means of securing the applicant’s appearance at the trial.

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It held a further breach of the right to liberty with regards to the authorities’ failure to provide speedy decisions on his appeals against four detention orders (Article 5§4 ECHR).  Finally, the European Court found that Mr Yankovskiy had no effective means of complaining about the lack of medical assistance during his pre-trial detention (Article 13 ECHR).

The European Court awarded him €19,500 in compensation.

This case is part of EHRAC’s broader litigation to protect prisoners’ rights, which are often poorly protected in our target region (Russia, Ukraine and the South Caucasus). Prisoners are often not provided with adequate medical treatment, exacerbating the already poor conditions of detention. We are litigating several cases of formerly imprisoned human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and in 2016, the European Court ruled in the case of Leyla and Arif Yunus, finding that the inadequacy of medical provision amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment. Moreover, prisoners’ deaths in custody are sadly regular occurrences. In Georgia, for example, the issue became especially pertinent in light of the Gldani prison scandal in September 2012, where footage was leaked of torture and rape in a Tbilisi prison. The Georgian Government admitted in December 2015 that it had violated the right to life in one of our cases, in which a man who, having refused to become an informant, was allegedly bullied by prison staff and prisoners, until he was found hanged in his solitary confinement cell.