Croatia: Armed robber wins judges’ backing in cell space human rights row

An armed robber detained in a cell with less than three square metres of personal space, has convinced Strasbourg judges that his human rights were violated by Croatia’s authorities.

They ruled today that Kristijan Muršić’s detention over 27 days amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

In the case of Muršić v. Croatia (application no. 7334/13) the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been:

unanimously, a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights for the period 18 July-13 August 2010, during which the applicant had less than 3 sq. m of personal space in Bjelovar Prison;

by ten votes to seven, no violation of Article 3 in respect of the other, non-consecutive, periods of detention during which he had less than 3 sq. m of personal space;


by thirteen votes to four, no violation of Article 3 in respect of the periods in which he had personal space of between 3 sq. m and 4 sq. m in Bjelovar Prison.

The court also declared that as Just satisfaction (Article 41), Croatia should pay the applicant 1,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 3,091.50 in respect of costs and expenses.

Judges confirmed that 3 sq. m of surface area per detainee in a multi-occupancy cell was the prevalent norm in its case-law, being the applicable minimum standard for the purposes of Article 3.

When that area fell below 3 sq. m, the lack of personal space was regarded as so serious that it gave rise to a strong presumption of a violation of Article 3.

Having regard to the documents produced by the government and to the applicant’s statements, the Court found that the conditions in which the applicant had been held in Bjelovar Prison were generally appropriate, but that there had been a violation of Article 3 for the consecutive period of 27 days during which he had been confined in less than 3 sq. m of personal space.

The other periods during which Mr Muršić had disposed of less than 3 sq. m could be regarded as short and minor reductions of personal space, while at the same time Muršić had sufficient freedom of movement and activities outside the cell and was being held in a generally appropriate detention facility.

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