Judgment of the ECHR of January 7, 2020 in the case "Ciupercescu v. Romania (no. 3)" (applications no. 41995/14 and 50276/15).
In 2014 and 2015, the applicant received assistance in preparing applications. Subsequently, the applications were consolidated and communicated to Romania.
In the case, an application about a violation of a prisoner's right to access online communications to maintain contact with the outside world, in particular with family members, was successfully considered. The complaint was declared inadmissible on the merits. In relation to another complaint by a detainee concerning the conditions of his detention, there was a violation of the requirements of Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in respect of the first period of time.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicant served his sentence from 2009 until the end of 2016. In February 2014, a law came into force, according to which, in some cases, prisoners were allowed to maintain contact with the outside world, in particular with family members, through online communication. For security and practical reasons, the exercise of this right depended on a preliminary assessment and obtaining permission from the administration of the penitentiary.
The specific circumstances that should have been taken into account in order to obtain permission and exercise this right were to be determined in the relevant by-laws adopted within six months from the date of entry into force of the said law. Such a bylaw was adopted in April 2016.
Since April 2015, the applicant complained about the absence of such a law, referring to the fact that his wife could only visit him once every three months, since she lived far away in Italy.
Referring to the provisions of domestic law, the Romanian courts recognized the existence of the aforementioned right and ruled that the lack of regulation to ensure the exercise of this right was a continuing violation of it.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Compliance with Article 8 of the Convention. This provision of the Convention cannot be interpreted as guaranteeing prisoners the right to communicate with the outside world through online communication devices, in particular when alternative means of maintaining contact are available and adequate (see, in a similar context regarding the right to telephone calls, Judgment of the European Court of Justice on in Lebois v. Bulgaria, 19 October 2017, application no. 67482/14).
In the present case, the applicant's right to access means of communication to maintain his contacts with his wife was provided for by Romanian law.
It should be admitted that there was a delay in the case of one year and eight months in relation to the time period established by the relevant provisions of Romanian legislation for the exercise of this right. Thus, the relevant right was limited due to the temporary lack of an appropriate legal and infrastructural framework to enable prisoners to use online communications. However, the Court noted the following:
- this restriction lasted for a relatively short period of time (from April 2015, when the applicant first complained about it to the court on the execution of the sentence, until April 2016 (at the latest), when the regulations on the implementation of the relevant right were adopted);
- at that time the applicant's wife could visit him once every three months;
- nothing prevented the applicant from maintaining normal contact with his wife through alternative means of communication.
The complaint was declared inadmissible (as manifestly unfounded).
Another complaint by the applicant concerning the conditions of his detention was examined on the merits. The Court unanimously concludes that there has been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the first period of time (in this connection the Court awards the applicant EUR 3,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage) and that there has been no violation of Article 3 of the Convention in respect of the second period.