Human rights judges have accepted a complaint against inhuman and degrading conditions suffered by a patient in a Romanian psychiatric hospital.
In the case of Parascineti v. Romania (application no. 32060/05), the European Court of Human Rights held unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The complaint was brought by Mihai Parascineti, who objected to his treatment in an overcrowded psychiatric ward with very poor standards of hygiene. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that Romania was to pay him 6,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 300 in respect of costs and expenses.
On 29 June 2005, Parascineti, who suffered from serious functional deficiency, with headaches, articular pains, eye problems and congenital dislocation of the hip, for which he had a prosthesis, was admitted to the endocrinology department of the Baia Mare county hospital.
On 5 July 2005 he displayed signs of acute psychosis and was urgently admitted to the psychiatric ward of the Sighetu Marmatiei municipal hospital. While Parascineti
alleged that this had occurred when he refused to have an injection, the Romanian government submitted that he had been committed to the psychiatric ward after
returning to the hospital under the influence of alcohol and in a state of aggressiveness and agitation.
Parascineti complained that conditions in the psychiatric ward during his stay there from 5 to 13 July 2005 were appalling, that dozens of patients – some of whom had
scabies and lice – were housed in the same room and that he had even had to share his bed with one or two other patients. The smell from the toilets, which were at one end of the room, was unbearable and, like the other patients, he was not allowed out into the fresh air. Furthemore, all 70 to 100 patients in the ward were given access to the bathroom at the same time and had to share the only two showers there.
Decision of the Court
The Romanian Government argued that the complaint was inadmissible because the applicant had not exhausted the domestic remedies. The Court noted that where conditions of detention in Romanian prisons were concerned it had already held, on the one hand, that the Government had not demonstrated the existence of an effective remedy to redress a complaint under Article 3 of the Convention and, on the other hand, that a compensatory remedy alone could not prevent the
continuation of the alleged violation. The complaint was therefore admissible.
The Court reiterated that the State was required to ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty were detained in conditions which were compatible with respect for their human dignity, that the manner and method of the execution of the measure did not subject them to distress or hardship of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention and that, given the practical demands of imprisonment, their health and well-being were adequately secured. In cases of mental illness, increased vigilance was required in view of the detainees’ vulnerability and the risk that this would heighten their sense of inferiority and powerlessness.
In this case the Court noted that Parascineti had given a detailed and coherent description of what he had endured, and in particular the overcrowding and the very
poor conditions of hygiene in the psychiatric hospital. The Government were unable to give any information concerning the applicant’s actual circumstances during his stay at the municipal hospital, but they admitted that at the time the conditions in the psychiatric wards at Sighetu Marmatiei hospital had been inadequate. There were rooms with 20 to 30 beds and sometimes two patients had to share a bed. The conditions of hygiene were unsatisfactory, there were not enough specialised staff and the patients were likely to catch scabies or become infested with lice.
The Court considered that such conditions, which were already inadequate for any individual deprived of his liberty, were even more so for someone like the applicant, who
had been diagnosed with mental disorders and consequently needed specialised treatment as well as a minimum standard of hygiene. The Court accordingly found that there had been a violation of Article 3.
As the applicant had not exhausted the remedies available under Romanian law, where there was a special procedure for challenging commitment for psychiatric treatment, the Court rejected this complaint as inadmissible.