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Laniauskas v. Lithuania, No. 48309/19, ECtHR (Second Section), 29 March 2022

Laniauskas v. Lithuania, No. 48309/19, ECtHR (Second Section), 29 March 2022

The Court dealt with the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment in a case concerning a person suffering from serious visual impairment detained in an ordinary prison. The applicant was a convicted prisoner, who alleged infringement of Article 3 ECHR, due to his continued detention despite his state of health. The ECtHR found no violation of the concerned provision, being the visual disability not such as to make the continued detention incompatible with Article 3.


In particular, the Court outlined the three steps used to determine whether the detention of an ill person complies with Article 3. These consist in the assessment of: (1) the effects of the imprisonment on the applicant’s state of health; (2) the (in)adequacy of the medical care provided; and (3) the appropriateness of continued detention in the light of the applicant’s state of health (para. 48). Actually, medical experts had established that the applicant was nearly blind since 1993. The illness was considered incurable under domestic law, which led to the loss of 90% of his working capacity (para. 49). However, the Court highlighted that between 2017-2021 "nothing in the case file indicates that his eyesight deteriorated during his detention", with the applicant serving his sentence since 2015 (para. 50).


The Court had no grounds to assess whether the authorities provided allegedly inadequate medical care, given that the applicant did not lodge any complaints before domestic authorities concerning the issue at stake. Further, the applicant did not indicate any treatment which had not been provided to him or had been provided belatedly (para. 51). Although the Court identified that the conditions of detention were regular detention facilities, without indication of their suitability to visually impaired people (para. 52), it argued that the case dealt not so much with the applicant’s access to medical care as with his wish to be released. Accordingly, the Court concluded that Article 3 should not be interpreted as a general obligation to release detainees on health grounds (para. 55).


(Comment by Giovanna Gilleri)