Latvia: Court judgement reveals inhuman and degrading detention conditions of deaf and mute prisoner

Human rights judges have told Latvian authorities that the detention conditions of deaf and mute prisoner amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Ābele v. Latvia (applications nos. 60429/12 and 72760/12) 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 case concerned a  complaint from Valters Ābele, who was born in 1968. He is currently in jail in Jēkabpils, after being sentenced to 15 years and six months in prison for aggravated murder.

Ābele has been deaf and mute since birth and has a poor knowledge of sign language. He has been categorised as having a medium level of disability (category 2 under the national standard).

Ābele alleged that he had been held in overcrowded cells and that the authorities had failed to cater for his disability. That had led to his being isolated.

The court found in particular that Ābele had lacked the necessary amount of personal space in the cells where he had been held and had suffered anguish and feelings of inferiority due to his inability to communicate that had attained the threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment.

As just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Latvia was to pay Ābele 7,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. The applicant did not submit a claim for costs and expenses and none were awarded.


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