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Judgment on conditions in Polish prisons – Poland responsible for another violation of the prohibition of inhuman treatment

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights released the judgment in the case Grzywaczewski v. Poland. Once again, ECtHR found that Poland had violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, prohibiting the use of torture or other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

From 25 January 2006 until 11 December 2008 the applicant was detained awaiting trial. Throughout that period he was held in a number of different facilities, namely Lublin Remand Centre, Zamość Prison and Hrubieszów and Rzeszów Prisons. In his application to the ECtHR the applicant argued that he had suffered inhuman treatment during his detention. He submitted, for instance, that during his detention in Lublin Remand Centre he had been held in a cell which had originally been designed for 11 persons but actually had been shared by 22 prisoners, which means that there had been 1.1 square meter of cell space per person. The applicant made similar allegations against other facilities.

Mr Grzywaczewski suffers from insulin-dependent diabetes, prostate cancer and mild cardiac disorders. The applicant alleged in his submissions that the medical assistance provided to him during his detention had not been sufficient. Despite his serious health condition he had been treated by the medical staff as if he suffered from common, non-threatening ailments.

Throughout the entire period of his detention Mr Grzywaczewski administered his insulin injections without the assistance of a third person. He did so inside the cell where he lacked privacy and adequate sanitary conditions. Due to the rapid changes of his sugar level he lived with the constant stress and fear of losing consciousness. His medical condition worsened during each move to a new detention facility.

The European Court of Human Rights found that cumulative effects of the overcrowding and inappropriate living conditions provided to the applicant during his detention and the fact that, because of his state of health, the applicant was in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis other prisoners as well as the nature, duration and severity of the ill-treatment to which the applicant was subjected were sufficient to held Poland responsible for inhuman and degrading treatment.

Having found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention, the ECtHR awarded the applicant EUR 6,000 as compensation for non-pecuniary damage.

“This is another judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, in which the Court found that conditions in Polish prison facilities violated the international standards”, says Maria Ejchart, HFHR expert. “Although the complaint refers to the situation in 2007, it cannot be ruled out that a similar situation may occur today. According to statistics as of 1 June 2012 the prison occupancy rate is 98.7 per cent. The Prison Service has not yet overhauled the prison medical care system. Without such a complex reform and systemic changes, Poland runs the risk that more and more cases will be brought to the ECtHR and the state will lose repeatedly”, adds Ms Ejchart.


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