prison

The 67-year old detainee claimed that detention during the pandemic put his life in danger.

On 9 November 2023, the European Court of Human Rights declared manifestly ill-founded the complaint raised under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (guaranteeing the right to life) by a 67-year-old detainee with multiple diseases who had claimed that the Italian authorities’ failure to uphold his urgent request to replace his prison sentence with detention under house arrest on account of the risks posed by COVID-19 had put his life in danger.

At the outset, the Court recalled that, as already held in the case Fenech v. Malta (for a comment on this judgment, see the story published on 4 March 2022), in order for an individual to claim to be a victim of an alleged violation of Article 2, he cannot generically adduce that some acts or omissions of the State have put the life of a certain category of persons in danger. Instead, he must substantiate that in his own circumstances the acts or omissions of the State have or could have put his life at real and imminent risk.

That being said, the Court observed that to reduce the risks related to COVID-19, the “Italian authorities adopted urgent measures for the reduction of the prison population and specific preventive measures for prisons, such as a quarantine period for new arrivals, the isolation of symptomatic prisoners, the provision of protective equipment to prison personnel and the provision of masks and sanitising gel to prisoners”.

With specific reference to the applicant’s situation, the Court further noted that the Italian authorities had acknowledged that the applicant suffered from diseases on account of which he qualified as a high-risk-inmate and that it was precisely “due to his vulnerable health situation, [that] the applicant was placed in a single cell”. The Court also stressed that he had not been infected and that the COVID-19 vaccination was made available to him as soon as possible.

In light of these circumstances, the Court concluded that the applicant had not provided sufficient evidence that the Italian authorities had failed to protect his life from the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reference: European Court of Human Rights, Riela v. Italy, 9 November 2023, ECLI:CE:ECHR:2023:1109JUD001737820.

Full text of the decision available at hudoc.echr.coe.int en