Sy v. Italy, No. 11791/20, ECtHR (First Section), 24 January 2022
The Court dealt with the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment in a case concerning a person suffering from bipolar and personality disorders detained in an ordinary prison. In Sy v. Italy, the applicant complained that the continued detention in an ordinary prison, despite domestic court decisions ordering his transfer to a Residential Centre for the enforcement of preventive measures (REMS), had amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment in the light of his mental health conditions. The Court found that the state had breached the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment under article 3 ECHR.
The Court underscored that article 3 requires states to ensure that all persons detained are treated in accordance with the right to human dignity. This implies that punishments should be enforced guaranteeing the detainee’s concrete needs, health and wellbeing, including the necessary medical care and treatments (paragraph 77). The Court held in the present case that the detention in ordinary prison was incompatible with the applicant’s mental illness, since it had exacerbated his health conditions and prevented him from benefiting from the therapeutic strategy he was in need of. The domestic courts, the Court noted, had already highlighted this incompatibility in their clear and unequivocal decisions, which had been nevertheless ignored by local institutions. Indeed, the prison administration department had sent many requests for admission to REMS which had been refused. Domestic authorities had found no alternative solution, such as, for instance, creating new REMS places.
Therefore, throughout the two-year imprisonment in an ordinary prison, the applicant was deprived of any medical provision aimed at healing his existing mental health problems or preventing their aggravation. This amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment and, accordingly, to a violation of article 3.
(Comment by Giovanna Gilleri)