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Published: 2 Jun 2005
Novoselov v Russia
Case No. 66460/01
Judgment date: 2 June 2005
On 5 November 1998 the applicant was found guilty of disorderly behaviour and sentenced to six months of imprisonment. He was released on 28 April 1999. The applicant was kept in cells measuring approximately 42 m2, which accommodated 42 to 51 inmates, with 30 available sleeping places, and the inmates’ toilet located within the cell. The table where the meals were eaten was just one metre away from the toilet. Among other aggravating factors were the absence of bedding, swarms of insects, and the inadequate supply of detergents to the prisoners. During his detention the applicant contracted scabies, nevertheless, he was not isolated from other inmates. He twice fell ill with flu (over a period of 6 months). By the time of his release, the applicant had lost 15kg in weight, he felt short of breath while walking, could not run, and suffered from general weakness. On 30 July 2002 the applicant filed a civil action, claiming compensation for damage caused by the “inhuman and degrading” conditions of his detention. The district court dismissed the action and the regional court upheld this decision.
The Court held that there was a violation of Article 3. It took note that the applicant was given less than 1 m2 of personal space and shared a sleeping place with other inmates, taking turns with them to rest. Save for one hour of daily outside exercise, the applicant was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. Furthermore, the fact that the applicant was obliged to live, sleep and use the toilet in the same cell with so many other inmates was itself sufficient to cause distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention, and arouse in him feelings of fear, anguish and inferiority capable of humiliating and debasing him. Lastly, the Court observed that cell windows were covered with metal shutters blocking access of fresh air and natural light and that the applicant had twice fallen ill with fever and contracted dermatitis while in detention. The Court found the combination of all these factors went beyond the threshold of Article 3 requirements.
The Government had argued that the overcrowding was due to objective reasons and that the facility officials could not be held liable for it. Since there was no intent to debase the applicant, the treatment could not be considered to be in violation of Article 3. The Court reiterated, however, that although the question whether the purpose of the treatment was to humiliate or debase the victim was a factor to be taken into account, the absence of any such purpose could not exclude a finding of a violation of Article 3.