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Mehmet Nuri Özen and others v. Turkey, No. 15672/08 and others, ECtHR (Second Section) 11 January 2011

Type Judgment
Case number 15672/08


Refusal to send the prisoner's private correspondence as written in the language of an ethnic minority. Violation of the right to respect for private and family life.

Normative references

Art. 8 ECHR


1. The right of the prisoner to use a minority language in the exercise of the freedom of correspondence may be legitimately limited by reason of the pursuit of other needs worthy of protection (such as security within the prison institution, or the need to prevent communication between terrorist or criminal organizations). However, the restrictions imposed on this right, as well as provided for by law, must be proportionate to the aim pursued.

2. Where the internal legal system of the State does not regulate the hypothesis of a correspondence between prisoners in a language other than the official one, the refusal by the prison authorities to send the correspondence written by some inmates to their families in that language, on the reason that it did not allow to control its content and compliance with the law, represents an illegitimate interference in the private and family life of the prisoners. In these cases, the decision of the penitentiary institution to prevent the correspondence of prisoners should be based solely on the content of the letters (which must not compromise security and order in the penitentiary or encourage criminal activities), but not on the language used.

(Case in which the Turkish penitentiary authorities had refused to send the correspondence sent by some detainees to their families, because, being written in Kurdish, they had not been able to assess the content to verify compliance with the legal requirements)