On February 7, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the case of Turpulkhanov v. Russia (13886/10). Islam Turpulkhanov was the applicant in this case. He was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment by a court in the Republic of Chechnya. After his conviction, he spent three years in conditions that the ECHR recognised in its judgment as cruel and degrading in nature.
Turpulkhanov was arrested in 2005. Following his conviction in April 2006, he was sent to serve his sentence in a prison colony in Arkhangelsk Region. The applicant described the prison barrack where he lived as an old building dating from the 1970s, with cracks and mouldy, crooked walls. One barrack of 85 square metres in area housed 105 people, healthy people shared the barrack with prisoners infected with HIV, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, there was no proper lighting in the barrack, a highly unsanitary situation, and only discoloured cold water came from the washbasin tap. There were problems too with food, which was served in unwashed, dirty dishes, with the result that the prisoners often had stomach upsets.
The Court recognised that giving a prisoner only 2.85 square metres of living space is degrading treatment and estimated the moral damages at 10,750 euros.
Turpulkhanov wrote repeated complaints about the detention conditions to the prison colony’s head and the Arkhangelsk Region branch of the Federal Corrections Service, but the complaints did not reach their designated recipients. In the rare cases when the complaints were sent out of the prison colony, Turpulkhanov received only formal empty replies from the Federal Corrections Service.
In response to Turpulkhanov’s complaints, his detachment head had him sent to the punishment cell, where he was beaten and forced to go hungry as they served him no other food than pork.
The ECHR ruled that in the case of Islam Turpulkhanov, there was a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment) together with Article 13 (right to effective remedy).
“We are happy that that ECHR has recognised the violations in Islam’s case”, said Yakha Turpulkhanova, Islam’s mother. “He really was detained in dreadful conditions, as the photo and video evidence testify. Of course, the compensation awarded does not make up for the expenses our family has borne over these 13 years of Islam’s detention, but we are happy simply to see that this ruling recognises that his rights were violated”, she said.
“The ECHR has once again recognised that detention conditions in Russian prisons are akin to torture”, said Olga Gnezdilova, legal director at Justice Initiative. “Unfortunately, it remains the case today that imprisonment also brings physical suffering. The ECHR decision enters into force within 3 months and the applicant will receive compensation, but we hope that as well as settling the material side of the issue, the authorities will take steps to bring detention conditions into line with recognised standards”.
Justice Initiative works actively to protect the rights of those who face degrading and inhuman treatment. The organisation is handling around 100 cases of complaints about torture, degrading treatment, failure to provide medical assistance, and moral suffering of applicants.