The decision of the ECHR of January 19, 2021 in the case "Shlykov and Others (Shlykov and Others) against the Russian Federation" (aplications N 12482/14 and 39800/14 and other aplications).
In 2014, the applicants were assisted in the preparation of aplications. Subsequently, the aplications was merged and communicated to the Russian Federation.
In the case, aplications were successfully considered about the use of systematically special means (handcuffs) to the applicants who were serving a sentence of life imprisonment in various correctional institutions every time they left the cells. The case involved a violation of article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as article 3 of the Convention in connection with the conditions of serving a sentence in a correctional institution in respect of one of the applicants, paragraph 1 of article 6 of the Convention due to the fact that some of the applicants were deprived of the opportunity to attend court hearings to consider their complaints about the use of handcuffs.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The four applicants, who were serving a sentence of life imprisonment in different correctional institutions, were systematically subjected to special means (handcuffs) every time they left the cells, on the grounds that they had been sentenced to life imprisonment, had a list of disciplinary penalties or were placed under additional supervision by the relevant commission as dangerous prisoners.
(a) Regarding compliance with article 3 of the Convention. The applicants were handcuffed for long periods of time each time they were taken out of the cells. Although the use of handcuffs has not been used in public, any measure that diminishes self-esteem or self-perception in the eyes of others, especially if it is used for a long period, should be considered as potentially "humiliating".
The practice of applying handcuffs to persons sentenced to life imprisonment, apparently, was not based on the legislation of the Russian Federation. The relevant provisions of the legislation of the Russian Federation did not require that persons sentenced to life imprisonment were systematically handcuffed when they were taken out of their cells, but they assumed that there was a freedom of discretion in this matter. It also followed from the existing practice that the measure in question was not applied automatically in all correctional institutions where persons sentenced to life imprisonment were held. However, when handcuffs were used constantly, it was very difficult for prisoners to achieve a change in the current situation. Moreover, although the relevant provisions of the legislation of the Russian Federation provided that the application of restrictive measures should be regularly reviewed, nothing in the case file indicated that such a review would have taken place systematically while the applicants were serving their sentence. Also, there was no evidence of any behavior on the part of the applicants that would justify the application of the measure in question to them in a routine manner for long periods. In the absence of evidence that the authorities supervising the applicants had carried out any analysis of the threat that the applicants could pose, it was unclear to the European Court how the management of correctional institutions and the courts of the Russian Federation concluded that the restrictive measure applied to the applicants was justified by this danger, and continued to adhere to this conclusion.
Although the European Court takes into account the difficulties that the State may face in maintaining order and discipline in correctional institutions and understands that disobedience on the part of prisoners can quickly turn into aggression, a sentence of life imprisonment cannot justify the constant and prolonged use of handcuffs, which is not due to any special security considerations and personal characteristics of prisoners and which is not reviewed on a regular basis. In addition, restrictive measures may be applied to persons sentenced to life imprisonment only as a proportionate response to the special danger that these persons pose, and for a period strictly necessary to eliminate the mentioned danger.
In the present case, the applicants were handcuffed for a long period each time they were taken out of the cells, without a proper assessment of their individual circumstances and without any regular consideration of whether the application of the measure in question was necessary or whether it had a special purpose. In view of the above, the systematic application of handcuffs to the applicants in a protected institution was a measure that did not have sufficient justification and, therefore, can be considered as degrading treatment.
The case involved a violation of the requirements of article 3 of the Convention (adopted unanimously).
The European Court also unanimously ruled that there were violations of Article 3 of the Convention in connection with the conditions of serving a sentence in a correctional institution in respect of one of the applicants, paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Convention due to the fact that some of the applicants were deprived of the opportunity to attend court hearings to consider their complaints about the use of handcuffs.
In the application of article 41 of the Convention. The European Court decided that the finding of a violation of the Convention in itself is a fairly fair compensation for any non-pecuniary damage caused to one of the applicants. It also awarded 3,000 euros to the other applicant and 1,950 euros to each of the two remaining applicants as compensation for non-pecuniary damage.
In the application of article 46 of the Convention. The European Court suggested that the authorities of the Russian Federation take general measures in relation to the established violation of Article 3 of the Convention (the practice of prolonged use of handcuffs to persons sentenced to life imprisonment).