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Greece: Court awards €132,000 to HIV-positive inmates after prison hospital human rights breaches

Detention conditions for 13 HIV positive inmates in a Greek prison hospital’s psychiatric wing, breached European human rights law, judges ruled today.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Martzaklis and Others v. Greece (application no. 20378/13) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights;

a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The Court held that Greece was to pay 10,000 euros (EUR) to each of the applicants in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 to the applicants jointly in respect of costs and expenses.

The complaint was brought by 13 Greek nationals. They are HIV positive, with a degree of disability of over
65%. They were detained or continue to be detained in the psychiatric wing of Aghios Pavlos Hospital, attached to Korydallos Prison.

They highlighted the situation of overcrowding, the unsupervised admission of new patients and the fact that they were detained with other persons suffering from contagious diseases who should have been accommodated in individual cells.

The washing machine was out of order, although their clothes should have been washed every day at a high temperature, and they were not allowed to touch the bars through which the nurses delivered their medication in order to prevent any risk of infection.

The HIV-positive prisoners, including the applicants, also complained to the prison hospital board but received no reply.

The applicants maintained that the cells were overcrowded and that personal living space was restricted to less than two square metres per person. The bathrooms did not comply with minimum hygiene standards, the food was low in nutritional value, the premises were inadequately heated, the air was polluted by tobacco smoke and none of the doctors present was a specialist in infectious diseases.

The European court found established the inadequate physical conditions and sanitation facilities for persons
detained in the prison hospital, and also the irregularities in the administration of medical treatment. It held that the applicants had been subjected to physical and mental suffering going beyond the suffering inherent in detention.

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